Price transparency rattling hospitals to varying degrees, effects

A month and a half after hospitals were mandated to show their prices for shoppable services, anecdotal evidence shows some may be flouting the federal rule without apology—evidently deeming the penalty of up to $300 per day insufficiently incentivizing.

Texas-based Christus Health appears to be an example. The institution tells its website visitors:

We understand the cost of healthcare can be complex. New guidelines established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services require us to publish our negotiated rates with payers for services provided. We haven’t invested our resources into this because it provides something that will only be useful for our competitors. We aren’t in it for them. We are in it for you and believe you deserve to know what’s important to your personal situation. That’s why we remain dedicated to keeping prices low for you.

To this a Christus spokesperson adds in remarks made to the Wall Street Journal that disclosing the rates Christus negotiates with payers “will not accurately inform patients of out-of-pocket costs but rather will lead to confusion and encourage anticompetitive behavior.”

The investigative article, posted Feb. 11, follows prior reports from other outlets showing hospitals not so much defying the transparency rule as grudgingly complying with it.

The WSJ article’s very publication may make hospitals inclined toward semi-compliance all the more guarded: The piece shines a harsh light on a major health system that is fully compliant despite what its candor may do to its community standing.  

Here’s how the article starts:

When a woman gets a caesarean section at the gleaming new Van Ness location of Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center, the price might be $6,241. Or $29,257. Or $38,264. It could even go as high as $60,584.

The pricing data from the compliant hospitals, now that it’s arriving for public inspection, is  “shining a light on the insanity of U.S. healthcare pricing,” Niall Brennan, chief executive of the Health Care Cost Institute, tells WSJ. “It’s at the center of the affordability crisis in American healthcare.”

Read the article.

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