The cost of healthcare in the United States is at an all-time high, and it can be debilitating to be slapped with a monstrous bill after receiving treatment. Unfortunately, hospitals haven't made their costs accessible to patients in the past, so people are left to call around and figure out pricing. However, there isn't always time for that, and some healthcare centers don't like giving out that information.
Now, though, every hospital in the United States is going to be required to post their prices online, thanks to a new federal law.
In April of 2018, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued a statement on his proposal.
America’s healthcare system has to change, and President Trump’s Administration recognizes that. This payment proposal takes important steps toward a Medicare system that puts patients in charge of their care and allows them to receive the quality and price information needed to drive competition and increase value.
The rule also solicits feedback on further bold actions, which will be necessary to disrupt our existing system and deliver real value for healthcare consumers. Through boosting interoperability and maximizing the promise of health IT, promoting price and quality transparency, pioneering new models, and removing government burdens, we are going to move toward a system that provides better care for Americans at a lower cost.
The hope is that if prices are available easily, hospitals will work hard to keep their prices lower than the competition. It will also hopefully stop people from being surprised when they're charged at the end of their stay.
“This historic proposal is an important way to create new incentives for drug companies to start lowering their list prices, rather than raising them,” said Azar.
"We are just beginning on price transparency," Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. “We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”
Even though you and I may think this change is great, there have been some concerns about whether or not the price lists will be confusing.
"A hospital's charges are not as relevant to a patient because the patient's bill may be significantly discounted or the services are provided at no charge under the hospital's charity policy," Jeffrey Bromme, chief legal officer at the nonprofit healthcare company Adventist Health System, said.
There is also concern that if a patient sees the cost of a procedure they might not get it done, even if in the end they won't have to pay for it.
“We do not want patients to forgo needed care, especially if the quoted price is for the total cost of the service and not what the patient will be expected to pay out-of-pocket," Tom Nickels, executive vice president for government affairs and public policy at the American Hospital Association, said.
The way I see it, it's not a bad thing to have these prices posted. Most people will know what they're insurance will cover, and it's always better to have the facts and find out later you have to pay less than the other way around.
The new legislation will go into effect on January 1st, 2019.