Hospitals Must Now List Prices, but Good Luck Finding Them
When you go to a department store or a restaurant, you have a list of products or services, with prices next to them so that you know what you’re getting for what price. That’s a common sense way to do business. So why don’t you have that same option and those same disclosures from hospitals? As of very recently, you now have just that.
New Rule Requires Disclosures
A new rule passed by Medicare and Medicaid Services is intended to give consumers and patients greater cost information. The rule requires that hospitals publish the services and products they offer, along with the prices of each (that is, the total prices, before insurance pays whatever amount it will pay).
The hope is that fewer consumers will be surprised by bills of anesthesiologists, radiologists, and even the price of everyday items such as aspirin and over-the-counter medications, which somehow manage to have prices inflated when they are administered in a hospital.
Although many patients admitted with emergency conditions may not have much of a choice, for visits where a patient can choose between hospitals, the rule is also supposed to make that decision a more informed one. According to one study, there can be price differences of 50-70% between hospitals in the same region.
The study noted, for example, that the difference in price for a flu shot was $53 and $86 between two neighboring hospitals in San Antonio.
Price Lists are Hidden
Of course, hospitals won’t stop in their attempts to hide things from consumers, and this is no exception. That’s because the rule just requires that prices be published “on the internet” but gives discretion to hospitals as to where to publish them on their websites.
As you may imagine, many hospitals have now attempted to hide the price list by burying them in submenus or pages that are difficult for consumers to find or access. The study found that for most hospitals’ websites, it took 3 or more clicks to find the pricing information. Others took way more—the study found that one hospital in Kentucky has over one thousand pages to scroll through.
Many hospitals are hiding the pricing disclosures in FAQs, and legal disclosure pages. Baptist Hospital in Miami has their price list hidden in a link at the bottom of the page in an extremely small font.
Understanding the Lists Can be a Challenge
Other hospitals use similar tactics to hide disclosures, by making the list as difficult to interpret as possible. Using in-house codes, or abbreviations, or technical medical terms that the average consumer would not understand is not prohibited by the rule.
Because there is no standardization, how hospitals want to list pricing is up to them. One hospital may have 20,000 prices and the one down the street may have 60,000 prices because it breaks up larger procedures into smaller units for the purposes of the price lists.
Do you have medical debt? Are debt collectors trying to collect medical debt from you? Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss dealing with companies that treat consumers unfairly.