Health Care Price Transparency in Missouri: Part Three
In the first two posts in this series, I examined the confusing world of pricing in health care. What I found was that the majority of Missouri hospitals don’t appear to be complying with federal pricing rules. At the very least, it’s fair to say that if Missourians want access to their health care prices, more needs to be done to achieve greater cooperation from providers.
To boost hospital compliance, Missouri’s policymakers should consider reforms that would work in conjunction with existing federal rules. As Show-Me Institute researchers recommended in last year’s blueprint, establishing state level requirements for health care price transparency (including non-hospital providers) to publish charges for hundreds of shoppable services in a way that most Missourians can understand would represent a significant step forward.
Additionally, no price transparency requirement is effective if the providers charging those prices won’t comply and there is no effective enforcement mechanism. Under current federal rules, hospitals that fail to disclose prices in a comprehensible way can be fined from $300 to $5,500 a day. It doesn’t appear, however, that fines are being imposed. Missouri policymakers may need to consider noncompliance penalties with teeth for providers if they continue withholding pricing information from patients.
Policymakers should also consider ways to make it easier for patients to access and use these prices. States including Florida, and nine others, have taken the issue into their own hands and created online tools that help patients shop for various procedures. Something similar could be done in Missouri.
While greater transparency in health care will not single-handedly fix all the health care problems in Missouri, the hope is that it will take some of the uncertainty and confusion out of the process. Patients deserve clarity, not mystery, when making decisions related to their health. And until patients can be informed consumers of the care they purchase, we can’t expect to keep the cost of medical services under control.