Three of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the U.S. made a combined $120 billion in 2021, while violating federal transparency laws, according to an investigation by Patient Rights Advocate.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Affordable Care Act required hospitals to be transparent about what they charge patients.
The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires providers to post prices for their medical services online in a “machine-readable standard charges list for all items and services for all payers and plans” as well as a “standard charges list or price estimator tool for the 300 most common shoppable services,” according to the report.
The idea was to promote competition between hospitals, thereby lowering prices.
The Patient Rights Advocate report found that only 14 percent of the 1,000 hospitals reviewed were compliant with these regulations, and only 0.5 percent of hospitals owned by the three largest U.S. hospital systems – HCA Healthcare, CommonSpirit Health, and Ascension – were compliant.
None of the HCA Healthcare system’s 118 hospitals were compliant, the report found, and those three large systems made a combined $120 billion (page 3).
Open The Books studied the largest non-profit health care providers in the country in 2019 and found that their revenues and assets continued to grow as consumer prices skyrocketed, all while receiving tax breaks for their “non-profit” status.
Patient Rights Advocate found that the cost to companies to comply with these transparency regulations would be $12,000 per hospital.
Why are hospitals so reluctant to post their prices? Fear of competition may play a role. If hospitals followed the law, consumers might shop around to find the best deals on their medical procedures.
The U.S. needs to enforce its laws to ensure hospitals are being transparent in their pricing, since they won’t voluntarily obey the law.
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