House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Public Disclosure of Hospital Prices
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight on Tuesday held a hearing on whether hospitals should have to publicly disclose their prices for consumer comparison, the Boston Globe reports. Hospitals typically do not disclose their actual prices because they can be "extremely complex" and because they believe the disclosure could put them at a competitive disadvantage in negotiations with health insurers, according to the Globe. The Globe reports that the subcommittee is examining hospitals' practice of offering negotiated discounts to private and public insurers but charging uninsured patients the full price. "The problem is that hospitals are, in some circumstances, not very powerful when they negotiate prices with Medicare and Medicaid. The agencies tell them what the price is going to be," Regina Herzlinger, a professor at Harvard Business School, testified. She added, "The hospitals have to get the money someplace and one place is the people who pay themselves. So they end up charging them a lot of money." The subcommittee also examined whether some not-for-profit hospitals provide enough charity care to earn the federal tax exemptions they receive, the Globe reports. Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing on hospital billing practices, particularly for the uninsured and underinsured (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 6/23).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on pricing and quality of care for the uninsured at not-for-profit hospitals. The segment includes comments from House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), American Hospital Association Senior Vice President Carmella Coyle, Herzlinger and Center for Studying Health System Change President Paul Ginsburg (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 6/23). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.