It's one step forward. Maybe. In a move designed to increase transparency around our nation's health care costs, all hospitals in America will be required to post a master list, or chargemaster, of their prices online as of Jan. 1, per a new federal rule. But the Journal-News' report throws cold water on the news pretty immediately, reporting that some say the data won't be as useful as it might sound. That's because a patient's final bill rarely syncs with a hospital's stated list price, as things like insurance companies' negotiated rates, co-pays, and deductibles shape the final cost.
And the CEO of one benefits broker adds that consumers don't always have the medical know-how needed to understand which price on the chargemaster is the relevant one. "For an MRI for example, if it asks with contrast or without contrast, then I have to know what is contrast and why is that important?" he says. An earlier report on the rule from the Washington Examiner noted the pricing information previously needed to be made available upon request; now, it will need to be updated and posted online each year. (Read more medical costs stories.)