Online Price Transparency More Chaotic than Helpful

With the objective to make the often-perplexing hospitalization costs more genuine and transparent, the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) now require all hospitals to post their standard medical charges online. While this is a good initiative to help maintain “chargemasters” transparency, it has actually become more chaotic than being helpful to the patients, according to a recent post.


Online Price Transparency Incomprehensible and Unusable 

With effect from January 1, hospitals are mandatorily posting their chargemasters online, but what’s being published are just numbers. They often do not bear any resemblance to what the patients are expecting to pay. Thousands of healthcare services and their respective charges are posted in a manner that is “incomprehensible and unusable by patients.” According to the report, the online chargemasters comprise “a hodgepodge of numbers and technical medical terms” that are not only difficult to understand, but also vary from one hospital to another.

As stated by Michael Maron, the CEO, and president of Holy Name Medical Center, online price transparency tends to confuse people and create chaos rather than being useful. This is because every hospital has a unique price structure. The proposed federal government rule does not propose any standard uniformity regarding how a charge item should be named, how to number it, and what the hospitals charge for it.

Furthermore, the prices that are published are absolutely meaningless for 99 percent of the patients seeking medical care at the hospitals. This is because that’s not how the hospital bills are generated or how the patients pay for the same. It depends on how the insurer decides to pay if the patient is an insurance recipient. “Consumers are having trouble calculating out-of-pocket costs easily because the prices listed on a hospital’s “chargemaster”—list of medical goods, services and supplies—does not reflect what may be covered by health plans and insurance companies,” stated the report published at The New York Times.

As the Trump administration tried to take price transparency mentioned in the Affordable Care Act a step further, they wanted the hospitals to post prices “on the internet in a machine-readable format.” However, unlike their objective to empower the patients, the new enactment is only causing more disorder and confusions among the patients. Here are a few examples of how hospitals are posting their chargemasters online and why “it may take a brain surgeon to decipher them.”

  • Baptist Health in Miami posted online that “Embolza Protect 5.5” would cost $9,818, and the cost of “Visceral selective angio rad” is only $5,538
  • Complying to the recent Trump administration law, Vanderbilt University Medical Center listed a price of $42,569 for “HC PTC CLOS PAT DUCT ART,” or a cardiology procedure in simple terms

The results of online price transparency have completely baffled the patients. Searching through thousands of healthcare services and in an incomprehensible language is eating up significant time of the consumers, resulting in dissatisfaction. However, the CMS debated the confusions related to the new legislation, stating that “if hospitals have complaints about the new requirements, they should voluntarily provide patients with more useful information.”

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