As of January 1st US Hospitals must post prices online, but they may be more confusing than helpful
2019-01-07 from cnn.com
As of Jan. 1, in the name of transparency, the Trump administration required that all hospitals post their list prices online. But what is popping up on medical center websites is a dog's breakfast of medical codes, abbreviations and dollar signs -- in little discernible order -- that may initially serve to confuse more than illuminate.
Anyone who has ever tried to find out in advance how much a hospital test, procedure or stay will cost knows the frustration: "Nope, can't tell you" or "It depends" are common replies from insurers and medical centers.
While more information is always welcome, the new data will fall short of providing most consumers with usable insight.
That's because the price lists displayed this week, called chargemasters, are massive compendiums of the prices set by each hospital for every service or drug a patient might encounter. To figure out what, for example, a trip to the emergency room might cost, a patient would have to locate and piece together the price for each component of their visit -- the particular blood tests, the particular medicines dispensed, the facility fee and the physician's charge, and more.
"I don't think it's very helpful," said Gerard Anderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management. "There are about 30,000 different items on a chargemaster file. As a patient, you don't know which ones you will use."
And there's this: Other than the uninsured and people who are out-of-network, few actually pay full charges.
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