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Prices for Hospital Services Are Going Public in 2019

AFP/File Louis-Joseph Olivier
AFP/Louis-Joseph Olivier
KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

A federal requirement requiring hospitals to post how much they charge for their services online will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

The rule requires every hospital in the U.S. to list online how much services cost, and make the list publicly available to consumers by January 1.

The aim of the requirement is to spur competition among health care providers and educate consumers about the services they are paying for.

“We are just beginning on price transparency,” Seema Verma, head of U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid told the Associated Press. “We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”

But some consumer advocates are skeptical of the requirement, arguing that the final bill patients receive after insurance does not match the sticker price of services rendered.

“The list prices are so high that the vast majority of hospitals don’t even try to collect list prices from uninsured patients,” said Benedic Ippolito, a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute whose recent work has focused on researching hospital list prices.

But some people say insurance companies are already doing that job of making health care prices more transparent.

Thomas Campanella, the program director of Baldwin Wallace University’s health care MBA program, said the price comparison tools provided by insurance companies already do that job.

“I almost see it being more of a political ‘look at what we did,’” Campanella said of the requirement.

One hospital official begged to differ, saying that insurance companies could do better in making their prices transparent to consumers.

“Ultimately, I think some of that unpredictability rests with the insurers and the fact that they establish what they will and won’t pay for,” said Sarah Hackenbracht, interim president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.

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