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Hospitals are now required to post pricing - but is it useful for patients?

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Eduardo Garcia Cruz
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Under new Medicare requirements hospitals are now required to post their standard prices online. 

Hospitals and some healthcare experts worry the change could be confusing for consumers because the listed prices will typically be higher than they’ll actually have to pay.

Marianne Udow-Phillips is the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan. She said the prices hospitals post are the starting point for negotiations with insurance companies.

“It could be a problem if consumers looked at that charge list and assume that’s what it will cost them to get a service at a particular provider. There’s often very little connection between that charge and what a consumer actually pays.”

Udow-Phillips said a state initiative being considered to require more transparency around drug pricing could be more effective in fostering transparency.

“Because those retail prices do have an impact on consumers much more directly than these hospital prices do.”

Rachel Blizzard is a spokesperson for McLaren Central Michigan. She said consumers shouldn’t try and shop for the best deal based on the charges hospitals post.

“I think it probably will confuse people. Ultimately what patients want to know is what they are going to be charged and have to pay for out of pocket and the chargemaster is not going to be helpful with that.”

The best way to find out what a procedure will cost out of pocket, Blizzard said, is to speak with your insurance company directly.

For those without insurance Blizzard said the hospital works to match patients with assistance programs or to help enroll them in Healthy Michigan.