The Mirage of Hospital Transparency
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
Pursuant to a recent rule change under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now required to list their standard charges. In the alternative, hospitals can provide a process in which patients can inquire about charges prior to a procedure.
All of this is being touted as a consumer-oriented rule to increase hospital transparency. However, consumers will quickly find out that §2718(e) of the Public Health Service Act is nothing more than a mirage. Here’s why:
a. The list of prices do not account for what an individual’s health insurance covers;
b. Hospitals do not have to use a standard format to allow consumers to compare apples to apples;
c. Some hospitals already made their charges public which has done nothing to educate the consumer;
d. Rarely will a potential patient shop these lists or make the inquiries. Why? Because they are sick and need help sooner rather than later.
The ultimate problem with the approach is that the patient/consumer and not the hospital is being asked to carry the burden of determining their health care costs. Imagine if a consumer went to a fast food restaurant and wanted a hamburger. One establishment could list the cost of a quarter pound of cooked beef. Another could list the cost of a single patty. Yet a third restaurant could just have an email address that you could send your request and be provided a price in 5 business days. Sounds crazy right? You just want to know how much you have to pay so you can eat. Why is health care any different?