Making doctors and hospitals publish their prices could help consumers shop for care but also could help providers increase their prices.
Witnesses talked about that possibility today during a hearing on health care “pricing transparency” bills organized by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee.
Rep. Steven Kagen, D-Wis., an allergist, has introduced one of the bills, H.R. 4700, the Transparency in All Health Care Pricing Act.
Others health price disclosure bills include H.R. 2249, the Health Care Price Transparency Promotion Act, and H.R. 4803, the Patients’ Right to Know Act
If implemented as written, H.R. 4700 would require all individuals and businesses that sell medical products or services to the public to disclose all of their prices.
“There is no reason patients should be prevented from knowing the price of a pill before they buy it – and knowing what the person in line in front of them is paying for the same prescription,” Kagen said, according to a written version of his testimony posted on the committee website.
Some talk about requiring only publication of average prices, but “who among us wants to receive average care or receive the average change when we buy something?” Kagen asks.
Hospitals say they cannot set charges in advance, because they do not know how complicated a given procedure will be, but ordering a sandwich at a fast-food restaurants involves a large number of possible combinations, and the restaurants have figured out how to give consumers specific prices, Kagen said.