Hospital pricing, a long overdue change

Hospital pricing, from MSNBC

Going to a hospital is stressful. People generally go that are sick and want to get better. But even if you do, getting the bill in the mail a few days later can often send a shock to your system. After Rebecca died, I did get the final bill (that my insurance gratefully paid for), and the total was almost $100,000. Paying that out of pocket would have been pretty tough.

A little while back, I was visiting friends and one of them told me she had finally paid off the hospital fees associated with her little girl. It was shocking to me, since I’m blessed to have insurance and because her girl was two years old. But her insurance didn’t do a great job of detailing out-of-pocket expenses, so she and her husband got a bill that they just couldn’t pay in one chunk.

Thus, I was really happy to hear the news that President Trump pushed for price transparency rules that require hospitals to post prices. Initiatives like this have been moving forward before with varying degrees of success. Not surprisingly, hospitals and insurance companies are pushing back, but that’s no surprise. Every time an organization can hide their cost model it doesn’t benefit the consumer. Banks were like this years ago, and I’d argue social media sites are in this category now.

The more we learn about how hospitals charge people, the more people will shop around for routine procedures and force larger hospitals to embrace change. The only place this works now is in elective surgery. You can in fact shop around for LASIK eye surgery, and that has kept the surgery within grasp of most Americans, even ones without health insurance. As that same level of transparency gets applied to other areas of health care, we’re going to get better pricing, and stop saddling people with huge hospital debt.

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