Brief #48—Health

Policy Summary
Donald Trump and his administration have taken proactive steps to solve the nationwide issue of surprise hospital fees. Starting this month, Trump has mandated that hospitals publicly reveal prices for their services. These online master lists of services are called “chargemasters” and are the administration’s central component in reducing shock over medical bills and promoting transparency in healthcare. Within each list is an exorbitant amount of procedures and services that are provided in an a-la carte fashion, where patients must know every element to a procedure in order to have an accurate pricing expectation. Alternatively, a singular procedure like a vitamin D blood test can easily be found and compared across providers.

While it is beneficial to the patients to be provided with the resources describing their hospital fees, it isn’t likely that the average hospital-goer will be able to decipher the medical codes. “Chargemasters” are often hundreds of pages long with an overwhelming amount of abbreviations, codes and medical jargon. Additionally, prices are often found to be inflated and inconsistent, rendering their transparency useless. Another issue with the provided prices is they do not account for  the different insurance policies of patients and hospitals, again being rendered impractical. Finally, with individual hospitals producing their own list, there is little consistency among procedure or service descriptions, thus negating any consistency needed for comparing and finding the right price for consumers. Proponent for this mandate will note the issues with the “Chargemasters”, but will also state how they promotes transparency and allow patients to effectively advocate for themselves with factual information. On the contrary, while revealing pricing is key in medical reform, this does not address the larger issue of the high-priced American medical system, which can cripple patients after hospital visits. Overall, the attempt by the administration is well intended, but inefficient.

Resistance Resources:

  • Vox Media – Follow Senior Policy Correspondent Sarah Kliff, who has spent the past year exposing ER/hospital billing in the US.
  • National Assosciation of Healthcare Advocacy – When making important health decisions, having someone who is familiar with the health sector can help you make the best decision for both your health and your wallet. Use this association to find a healthcare advocate near you.
  • Change happens through the patients: To report inconsistencies, concerns or issues with Chargemasters, contact and notify your desired hospital.

Contact: This Brief was authored by Taylor J Smith Contact:

Photo by Olga DeLawrence

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