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Public Radio Stations Grass Root Initiatives to Make Health Costs Transparent

Interesting interview by Montana Public Radio with the health editor at NPR on transparency in health care pricing and reporting by NPR on this topic.  In relation to price comparison tools, some of those are efforts of state governments trying to mandate that prices have to be listed publicly, and others are grassroots, crowdsourcing type of efforts. But, as stated in the interview, state governments cannot compel all hospitals to publish how much they charge everybody for procedures, because of the mix of insurers – both private and public, making it almost impossible to compel them all to make their prices available. 18 states have set up databases where they are trying to compile as much information as possible on how much these entities actually pay for each claim that they get, but governments cannot force companies that operate across state lines to reveal what they are paying. A Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that multi-state companies cannot be subject to 50 different laws from every state, at least when it comes to what they pay for healthcare. Even if hospitals want to release what they charge everybody, insurance companies can still claim that it’s proprietary and prohibit it’s release.

At a grass roots level, NPR’s Shots blog ( is set to take one medical bill a month to dissect and analyze what it really means, and they are encouraging their audience to send in their medical bills for analysis. Some other public radio stations have made price check tools available via their websites, including San Francisco station KQED (, KPCC in Los Angeles ( and WHYY in Philadelphia ( Those stations partnered with a company called Clear Health Costs (, a health cost transparency company.

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