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Price Transparency Works Better When Hospitals Obey the Law and Patients Have Incentives

Price Transparency Works Better When Hospitals Obey the Law and Patients Have Incentives

Patients should not have to take out a second mortgage to pay for medical bills, and they need to know the price of their care.

Patients and policymakers across the political spectrum agree that we should know healthcare prices before we receive care. In fact, the federal government requires hospitals to publish their prices so patients can know how much care will cost. But according to a brand-new report from Patient Rights Advocate, 75 percent of hospitals are not obeying the law. That means millions of patients can’t compare prices for their care before arriving at the hospital.

The Trump and Biden administrations both promoted price transparency through the CMS transparency rule and the No Surprises Act, but HHS is dragging its feet on enforcement, and hospitals that refuse to comply have faced only minimal penalties. As a result, many hospitals consistently fail to share their prices. And even when prices are available, most patients still have little incentive to interact with pricing data because of the way health insurance covers most of the cost-sharing in common preventive care and post-deductible medical bills.

Why does this matter? Imagine a grocery store without price tags, where the clerks tell you to fill your cart, and you’ll get a bill in the mail later. And if that’s not odd enough, what if the clerk told you someone else will pay for your order, but a month later, you received a $500 bill for a bundle of bananas because your HR department prefers Dole to Chiquita? Unfortunately, this is precisely how our healthcare system works.

Read the full commentary in the National Review.