SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - There’s about to be a lot more transparency when it comes to hospital bills in the United States. Starting on January 1, 2019 a new federal rule takes effect to require all hospitals to post their standard services online. Giving patients the ability to compare prices before seeking treatment.
“People are making a ton of money off of the fact that you don’t know what stuff costs in health care,” explained Jeanne Pinder. She’s the founder & CEO of Clear Health Costs. Pinder said she created the agency to help encourage patients to become better educated about making health care decisions.
Closer to home, LSU Shreveport Economics Professor Tim Shaughnessy told us he supports the idea of posting medical costs.
“And I imagine there’s still going to be some of that complexity. But I think at least allowing consumers to know what the price are of these services is going to at least peel away at least one layer of complexity that doesn’t need to be there," says Shaughnessy.
Some skeptics and consumer advocates warn of potential confusion with the change. Critics argue that posting medical costs is only likely to cause more confusion because almost no one pays the prices listed. The real prices are set through negotiations with insurance companies, and those prices are not listed. Those same critics also point out that the posted prices won’t help during a medical crisis when there’s no time to compare the costs.
“That’s true. But for a lot of services too, you know if you just need blood work or lab work or something like that, going to get a flu shot or something, then it’d be nice to be able to shop around because you would have more time to make those decisions,” added Professor Shaughnessy.
Then there’s the issue of different co-pays and deductibles, depending on your medical coverage. That can further muddy the waters on what exactly patients may have to pay out-of-pocket.
Supporters conclude that this new-found hospital billing transparency is far from perfect. However they also call it a good start.