Most witnesses and lawmakers at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on health care cost transparency argued that consumers need much more detailed price data.
But one witness — Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) — said poorly designed transparency programs could end up increasing prices.
The committee organized the hearing, which aired live on the Web, partly in response to an article about dramatic, facility-to-facility variations in health care prices that Steven Brill published in Time magazine.
Especially when it comes to the full “charge master” rates that hospitals try to charge patients who are paying for their own care out of pocket, “this is not a functioning marketplace,” Brill testified. “It’s a casino where the hospital holds all the cards.”
Patients involved in emergencies have no choice about where to go for care, and other patients rarely have the ability to get much information about what care will really cost, Brill said.