NYT: How to Look Up Prices at Your Hospital, if They Exist

NY Times (8/22/21), Sarah Kliff: How to Look Up Prices at Your Hospital, if They Exist

This article describes how to look up hospital prices which is being mandated (by Jan 2022) with new federal regulations. Currently the process is not easy because it is not consumer-friendly.

An excerpt:

Before you start looking for prices, you’ll want to know what kind of health insurance you have — both the name of your insurer and also details like whether you picked an H.M.O. plan during open enrollment or went with a P.P.O. option

For most hospitals, the data is posted on a page labeled “price transparency.” Many researchers say they begin looking for price files through a search on Google for that phrase and the hospital’s name.

The hospital’s price transparency site will probably have multiple sections and links, and the labeling of the price files isn’t always clear. You’ll want to look for something like a “comprehensive machine-readable file” or “negotiated price list.”

It’s also worth opening up files that are described as containing “standard charges” or a “chargemaster.” 

When you open the files, you see it actually has the hospital’s negotiated rates and cash prices, too.

The government has not created a standard format for hospitals to report their price data, and each hospital seems to take a slightly different approach.

Some health care experts say the large data files will become more useful after third-party data companies clean and organize the information, so that patients can search across multiple hospitals and health care services.

One data transparency company, Turquoise Health, has already created a free price lookup tool

My take: Many hospitals are starting to comply with price transparency requirement; however, it is will be cumbersome and I expect that 3rd parties (like Turquoise Health) will be needed for most people to access this data.

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