Would it help patients to know hospital pricing prior to treatment?



Hand holding medical bill concept.

Daniel Greilsheimer, Contributing Writer

In most places, the price of a product is disclosed up front.  When a person walks into a clothing store or a supermarket, they know right away whether or not they can afford that sweatshirt or bunch of bananas.  However, this is not the case when one is in a hospital.  

After a patient completes their treatment, they are often shocked by their bill.  People come to a hospital for emergency treatment or for a scheduled surgery without knowing whether or not they will be able to afford to pay their bill.  This is especially true for those who do not have a health insurance plan, as the bill could be astronomical and potentially effect their financial life or their ability to receive health care in the future.

On June 25, 2019 President Trump signed an executive order forcing hospitals to disclose the price of care prior to treatment.  This is a huge step forward for patient rights, since before this executive order, patients were often blindsided by the cost of their treatment.  This executive order is intended to compel hospitals to display the cost of their services, similar to a supermarket that is open about their prices. 

Legislation is moving forward which will force hospitals to display certain services and prices online.  These prices are for both previously privately negotiated prices and for “shoppable” services, which are scheduled ahead of time.  This legislation, which focuses on hospital transparency, is called the New Hospital Price Disclosure Rule.

“In this world, some people with little earnings are in need of an important treatment that might be unaffordable.  Knowing the price of a treatments beforehand would let the patient know how to budget their money around the treatment,” said sophomore Bram Franchetti.    

A law of this nature would also make sure the patients are not being given unfair pricing.  This means that the price stays consistent, rather than fluctuating based on the person.  This would lead to an end in price discrimination to those of different races, ages, and genders, which occurs periodically, often resulting in hospitals losing millions of dollars in lawsuits.

“Sometimes a hospital might change their cost based on whether the patient is white or African American, female or male, etc.  This would end with known, consistent prices,” said sophomore Terry McGinty.

Requiring hospitals to disclose their treatment prices would lead to an increase in  competition amongst hospitals.  The patients who are looking for affordable treatment would go to the hospital with the least expensive prices.  This would benefit the consumers and the patients, but could potentially hurt the providers and hospitals.  

Hospitals would most likely lose business, which would cause them to decrease the price of treatments creating a downward spiral of treatment costs benefitting the patients.  Essentially, health care providers would be hurt if previously private prices were publicized because competition would lower the incentive for hospitals to provide health care insurers with lower rates.

As incidents of chronic diseases have risen along with increasing rates of poverty, paying for everyday treatment is becoming more difficult, let alone paying for an expensive hospital bill.  For low income individuals and families especially, it is necessary for them to know where the cheapest treatment is offered and to determine whether or not they are able to afford it.  

“Families who are tight on money shouldn’t have to be considered with the shock and horror debt that comes with the hospital bill,” said sophomore Emily Djohan.

This would help people be able to budget for what they can spend to maintain their quality of life.  The disclosure of the cost of medical treatment must happen for the sake of families and people all over this country.