Push For Price Transparency

October 14, 2019 By: Bob Atlas, President & CEO

A groundswell of support is forming at the state and national levels to make hospital billing more understandable and transparent for our patients.

Feeding that push are nearly daily headlines about patients who received bills that exceeded their expectations, people who were confused after receiving two bills for what looked like the same service, and hospitals’ efforts, legitimate as they may be, to collect on unpaid debts.

This drumbeat may intensify as we head into the 2020 session of the Maryland General Assembly. That is why, as we told you on our Thursday member phone call, we developed the standards for disclosure of outpatient hospital facility fees ( Facility Fee Consumer Fact Sheet , Hospital Commitment Form , Uniform Disclosure Standards ).

But, we know improving billing transparency for our patients is about more than hospitals’ facility fees.

It means voluntarily posting averages or ranges of charges for hospital services, including those that are most widely used—deliveries, imaging and other outpatient diagnostics, for example. That sort of disclosure is being mandated by the federal government under the new rules pertaining to “shoppable” services.

It also encompasses payment and collections and issues that arise from patients who see out-of-network providers. In fact, a recent survey found that some 75% of patients look up the cost of medical procedures online —part of a trend of consumerism in health care.

A major driver of the demand for transparency is the exposure consumers have to the cost of care. This comes with the rapid rise in health plans requiring very substantial out-of-pocket cost sharing.

We have every right to call insurers out for this problem, but we can’t stop people from focusing on hospitals since hospitals are the ones patients see.

So, it’s important that Maryland’s hospitals and health systems think differently about how to address this pressing issue. We can continue to support our patients by taking the lead in ensuring they have the information to make good decisions about their care.
Bob Atlas
President & CEO