Hospitals are now required to publish the rates they charge for services. Will this be helpful for patient’s health, for controlling costs, for lowering premiums? Let’s see.

This Federal legislative mandate is another fine example of Government wanting to help, thinking it can help, penalizing business and general community to do something it hadn’t before, then mucking it. It’s a mandate for hospitals to publish the rate they charge for the services it provides. The “no insurance coverage rate” or sticker price if you like.

Anyone who has ever purchased automobile understands what “sticker price” means. Simple, it’s the cost listed on the sticker glued to the car you’re looking to purchase.
Is that what every one pays? No.
Is it the starting point for negotiating. Yes.
Would the provider charge uninsured patients less if asked. Yes

If you are old enough you will remember the rate card nailed to the inside of every hotel room in America. The hotel and lodging industry referred to that as their “rack-rate”. It was mandated that the rate be displayed.

But, every time you looked at the rates on the card you would ask yourself “Does anyone ever pay that much?”. It was the hotel’s “not to exceed” rate but rooms would be priced based on supply and demand.

So, now patients and technically potential patients will get access to what a hospital will charge for the healthcare services, supplies and facility it provides for the treatment the patient seeks.

Of course this won’t be helpful to anyone and adds cost to the venders.

If insurance, Medicare or Medicaid is paying the bill then it will not pay anywhere close to the “rack rate” hospital’s post. In fact, even a person, uninsured, will not paid this amount.

So what good is this mandate?
Technically, a hospital can divulge what a service would cost under the coverage and discounts the member’s plan pays. They all have discounted PPO rates which could be used to divuge cost to a patient.
But insurers won’t like that and in fact would go nuts, then go to court. Insurers guard their negotiated discounts like the United States guards Fort Knox.

Insurers would hate to see their negotiated rates scattered among the internet for all competition to see. It goes along with the Insurer’s resistance to publishing claim experience or loss ratios publicly.

Your humble author has long advocated that Insurers be mandated to provide insured’s the loss ration on their plan for the year even if it be made available only at renewal time. Do you think it would be helpful for an employer, large or small, to be able to see that its loss ration is less than 100%. How  would an employer respond if its loss ration is 55% at the same time the insurer offers a 30% increase at renewal.

Posting rates will do little to improve healthcare outcomes, little to lower out-of-pocket cost and nothing to lower premiums.

So, this new mandate will not:

  • Lower out-of-pocket costs
  • Lower premiums
  • Improve healthcare outcomes

But, politicians can boast that they have done something. Just as the ACA caused a complete disruption to healthcare delivery and financing this mandate will provide a veil behind which insurers can hide. You’ll see.

Let me know what you think because we’re all in this together.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

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