Hospital Price Transparency & The Creative Ways Hospitals Find To Avoid Posting Their Prices For The Public

Lacking transparency
Lacking transparency for hospitals and healthcare.

Some of the most creative writing in business lately are the ‘reasons’ why hospitals and other healthcare providers are not able to post their prices, as the law requires. Respected Houston based neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative, Dr. Steven Goldstein, understands the letter and intent of the new rules on price transparency for healthcare providers and hospitals. Specifically, all the new rules that call for these medical suppliers to essentially post their price list. What the spirit of these new rules intended and what is happening in practice are not quite the same. To hear all of his insights tune to the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Radio.Com,LibSyn, Spotify, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Backtracks, Podbay, Podbean, and other places where podcasts are syndicated.

Claiming They Do Not Know

The big idea here was to make all of the prices, different rates, payer specific costs charged by insurance companies all more available and more transparent to patients. Sounds easy enough. But, according to the healthcare industry, procedures and services are often not as cut and dried as placing a price tag on a service and charging your insurance. According to them, some procedures can affect patients differently, causing them to have different levels of care and other needs that all have different prices.

Many healthcare providers also cannot say upfront what exactly the price will be, because doctors do not know the extent of the services until they begin offering care. “Hospitals do not want to be pinned down on prices other than to say, ‘it depends’ which is not much of an explanation,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “Some hospitals only posted price estimates, uploaded files in difficult to use formats, or promised to release information only after someone enters their insurance information. In New York City, a published investigation found only a handful of hospitals in that city complying while the rest were less than upfront.”

More Reasons To Not Comply

There are other reasons cited for non-compliance. Like the American Hospital Association claim that staff who would help with compliance are stretched thin because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “But the bottom line is that price competition only works if those involved are really competing, Dr. Goldstein said. “Without price disclosure, competition remains very elusive.”

Price Transparency Background

As of January 1, 2021, hospitals are required to make prices, those payer-negotiated rates for their services, available online in a readable format. In late 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the final rules on price transparency for healthcare providers. Prior to the release of these new rules, health insurance companies, and healthcare providers like hospitals negotiated prices for all the things they do for patients and did not make any of this information public. What this arrangement meant was that patients did not know what they would pay for treatment, tests, surgery, drugs and everything else until after they were treated and received the bill. “There is a lot of potential benefit for the American public when or if these rules are fully adopted and made more available for the public,” Dr. Goldstein said.

About The Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative (HHI) is a member owned, non-profit medical co-op. Led by Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein, the HHI will replace traditional health insurance for qualified individuals and families and provide incentives for members to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. HHI will provide affordable medical coverage through a combination of negotiated rates, low monthly payments, personal accountability and lifestyle incentives. The medical co-op promises to save qualifying individuals and families money on health insurance. At the same time, HHI will help uphold quality care by asking members to bear some responsibility and individual accountability for maintaining their personal health.