Medication

Doctors and hospital administrators fear a new law requiring U.S. hospitals to publish a price list for standard procedures is confusing patients.

Roy Finch, chief executive officer of the Palestine Regional Medical Center, said the new pricing information plan muddles medical costs more than it clarifies them.

Finch's concerns are shared by 92 percent of healthcare providers, a recent poll by Preferred Medical Marketing Corp., concluded.

“Data on hospital charges are difficult to understand,” Finch told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “It is not an accurate representation of what a hospital gets paid.

“We do not recommend that patients utilize this to obtain an accurate picture of their out-of-pocket costs.”

Instead, Finch urged prospective patients to speak to their insurance companies, or the PRMC admissions office, for more accurate pricing.

Finch advocates transparency in hospital pricing. Patients, he said, deserve to know what they are in for when they enter a hospital for treatment.

“As patients take on greater responsibility for the cost of their care, hospitals have a responsibility to communicate with patients,” he said. “PRMC is committed to helping patients understand and prepare for potential costs.”

Palestine Regional Medical Center, like the majority of hospitals nationwide, has complied with the federal directive. A price list for PRMC's items and services is available on their website at:

https://www.palestineregional.com/for-patients-visitors/understanding-billing-and-charges

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandated hospitals to list all charges online, effective Jan. 1, including aspirins, surgeries, childbirth, and bandages. The mandate said the pricing list should appear in a machine-readable format, so that potential patients can print the data as a spreadsheet.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hoped the initiative would make hospital pricing policies more transparent.

The problem: Insurance companies, indigent resources, charities, and dozens of other payment plans and pricing considerations affect the final tab for hospital services. Patients rarely pay the standard cost, otherwise called the “charge-master price” set by hospitals.

“Charge-master prices serve only as a starting point,” the Healthcare Financial Management Association told the federal government in May. “Adjustments to these prices are routinely made for contractual discounts that are negotiated with, or set by, third-party payers.”