The chief executive of a Miami, Florida hospital has pledged to begin addressing one of the most dysfunctional aspects of the American health care system, according to MedCity News. He’s striving for greater price transparency — giving patients and doctors the ability to easily see, before purchase, just what hospitals charge Medicare and other insurers for a given procedure.
A recent report gave over half the states in the U.S. a grade of “F” when it comes to price transparency. And after the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently provided a huge data dump on what hospitals charge government health care programs for common procedures, they found a staggering amount of variation across the country with no discernible justifications on economic or quality-of-care grounds. But the prices charged to private insurers still remain secret.
So in the wake of mounting pressure following the government’s data release, Steve Sonenreich — the chief executive of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach — promised on a radio show on Monday that his hospital will reveal the contractual rates that it charges private insurers:
“We will post our prices relative to Blue Cross, and Aetna, our contractual prices, and we’ll challenge Baptist and the other systems in the community to do the same,” said Sonenreich, who made his pledge during a studio interview on WLRN 91.3-FM with host Tom Hudson.
Also in the radio studio was Brian Keeley, chief executive of Baptist Health South Florida, which manages seven hospitals in the region. Keeley declined to accept Sonenreich’s challenge for price transparency, but acknowledged “That’s where the whole industry is going, undoubtedly.”
It remains to be seen whether other hospitals will follow Sonenreich’s lead. But the inability of consumers, doctors, and even many insurers themselves to compare different rates and charges openly is one of the key factors hamstringing the American health care market. With greater price transparency, it’s possible health care could begin behaving a bit more like markets are traditionally supposed to behave, and drive down prices through open competition.