Hospital Prices About to Go Public [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Thank goodness, it's the beginning of health care price transparency and hospitals will have to publish prices for the public to see.
I say thank goodness, because for years I have been calling for this clarity.
When you choose an item in a restaurant, you should know ahead of time how much you'll be charged for it. The same goes for prices a hospital charges us, from a dose of Tylenol to a knee replacement.
Starting on January 1, a new federal rule will require all hospitals to post a master list of prices online detailing the standard charges and services they provide, so the public can review them. Love him or not, the new requirement for online prices reflects the Trump Administration's ongoing efforts to encourage patients to become better-educated decision makers in their own healthcare.
Up until now, hospitals have been virtually mum when it comes to price lists, claiming they contained "proprietary information" or would be "too confusing" for patients. Give me a break!
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal rule requires hospitals to post the information in a "machine-readable" format, allowing consumers to download it into a spreadsheet. Hospitals must update these price lists at least once each year.
There is a problem, though: some hospital officials are warning that the published prices are likely to bear no resemblance to the actual prices, which can vary depending on the rates the hospitals negotiate with insurance companies. From what I understand, HHS says hospitals are free to offer more information to consumers to put prices in context, and to let people know how much they are actually likely to pay.
I hope they do just that.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.