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Guest column: Hospital price transparency — a necessary first step

Mar 27, 2021 | News

The Mountain Democrat recently printed my column about hospital pricing. Check it out:

Guest column: Hospital price transparency — a necessary first step

Would you purchase a new automobile without knowing the price? Would you purchase a new home that way? Or would you purchase any product in the supermarket without knowing the cost? For a slim slice of America — Silicon Valley zillionaires and Hollywood celebrities — that might be possible. There are always those with so much money, the price of anything is a mere afterthought.

However, for the vast majority of people, cost is the determining factor of most life events, whether it is the cost of a new car, a possible vacation or a college education for the high school graduate. And, indeed, the pricing mechanism is the key component of our free market economic system. That’s the process by which buyers and sellers conduct transactions. That’s how we determine value. It’s the basis of supply and demand. When government tries to intervene by imposing price controls it distorts the free market by artificially stimulating demand and restricting supply, thus leading to shortages plus explosive inflation when the controls are eventually lifted.

In January a revolutionary development took place in the completely cost-distorted healthcare market in the United States. Thanks to an executive order signed by President Trump in 2019, hospitals are now required to post the price schedules of more than 300 common “shoppable services” in a consumer-friendly format. These “shoppable services” are those that can be scheduled in advance by a healthcare consumer, such as X-rays, outpatient visits, imaging and laboratory tests or bundled services like a caesarean delivery, including pre-and post-delivery care. They are also be required to disclose public payer-specific negotiated charges and the amount the hospital is willing to accept in cash from a patient.

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I am a family physician and past Congressional candidate in San Diego, CA. I am on a mission to find smart, common sense solutions to many of our most challenging problems as a society.

I am a proud legal immigrant to the United States, arriving here when I was just eleven years old.

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