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Price Transparency Commentary Finds Confusion Relating to Hospital Prices Posted

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As of Jan. 1 2019 all hospitals are required to post their list prices online. But, Kaiser Health News writes, 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.  A concluding comment in a blog post from Clear Health Costs regarding the transparency conversation over hospital price lists, “It’s hard to believe that this can be represented as progress on transparency, but there you have it.”

For a local perspective, writes of two hospitals in Arkansas (St. Bernards and NEA Baptist) that have had this information posted online for several years. The standard charge is a price estimate for certain services hospitals offer, but it does not factor in insurance or other variables. Officials with both hospitals stressed that the standard price you see online isn’t the price you pay, it all depends on your insurance plan. The news item finishes with a telling “If you are wanting a more accurate estimate or have questions about price transparency, you should call your hospital’s business office.”

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