Thursday, August 26, 2021

Hospitals Don’t Want You to See Prices

One of the good things that the Trump administration was to require hospital billing disclosure, a regulation that went in against very intensive industry lobbying. The NY Times reports:
This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers. The insurers’ trade association had called the rule unconstitutional and said it would “undermine competitive negotiations.” Four hospital associations jointly sued the government to block it, and appealed when they lost. They lost again, and seven months later, many hospitals are simply ignoring the requirement and posting nothing. But data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden. It shows hospitals are charging patients wildly different amounts for the same basic services: procedures as simple as an X-ray or a pregnancy test.
I wonder how there is even a legal obligation to pay medical bills. For some of the situations described in this article, the patient is surprised with bills that are much higher than what others pay, and which duplicate fees that the insurance company already paid. The patient has no good legal reason to believe he owes anything. I have heard that hospitals often file lawsuits to collect bills, but I do not see how they could succeed, if the patient argues that was never notified of the fees and fee schedules in advance. People don't normally pay other bills under such circumstances.

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