Cost of Care: Hospitals Ignoring Price Transparency Rules

Amidst all the controversy over the presidential election and transition, a new law quietly took effect at the start of this year, the Federal Price Transparency Rule. It requires hospitals to publicly disclose the standard prices of services and items they offer. But more than two months after the new rule took effect, most hospitals are still not abiding by it. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) created a Price Transparency Compliance Index to see how hospitals are complying with the new law on a state-by-state basis. The index finds only 46% of Texas hospitals have complied so far, and only one-third of hospitals nationwide are in compliance.

It's not surprising that many hospitals are less than enthusiastic about posting their prices, considering the hospital industry fought to prevent the rules from taking effect in the first place. "Many of the hospitals, especially the bigger systems, have just opted to pay the penalty," says David Balat, TPPF healthcare analyst. "So they'd rather keep those prices secret, than disclose them to the communities they say they want to provide affordable care for."

Balat is calling for stronger enforcement of the law. "We need a bigger stick," he tells KTRH. "In Texas, we have a number of bills in the legislature, and hopefully they'll come up with some more substantive penalties, in order to get some compliance from these facilities."

Ultimately, Balat believes this could be a game-changer for healthcare, but only if hospitals actually comply. "Whether it's going to the doctor, imaging, labs, surgeries, and so on so forth, it will allow us to see what we're buying and how much it costs," he says. "Just like we conduct ourselves in every other aspect of our lives."

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