On this episode of the podcast, Terry and Bob discuss the implementation of hospital price transparency, which took effect on January 1st. They also analyze the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, which has been slowed by bureaucratic inertia and social justice complexity. They note how states such as West Virginia and South Dakota have been the most effective at distributing their vaccines because they don’t rely on hospitals. They call on all states to empower pharmacies, which can distribute the vaccines more nimbly, and move to a simple age-based criteria for distribution.
Terry interviews David Balat, the director of the Right on Healthcare initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, regarding hospital price transparency. David discusses how price transparency should allow patients to identify and choose lower-cost healthcare treatments for procedures such as CT scans. This information, he argues, will make patients more active consumers in their healthcare, changing the status quo where patients merely present their insurance card and passively wait for their bills to arrive.
He provides a history of healthcare price transparency efforts, highlighting how Obamacare had a price transparency mandate that was impotent because hospitals merely published their meaningless list prices known as “chargemasters.” In contrast, this price transparency rule requires hospitals to list their negotiated charge list with insurers and reveal a price list for common shoppable treatments.
Unfortunately, as David explains, hospital compliance with the rule has been inadequate. Hospitals seem to be trying to get around the rule by publishing price estimates, which don’t offer patients the same protections as real prices. Part of the reason for hospitals’ noncompliance is the paltry fine of just $300 per day. David calls on patients to report their hospitals to CMS if they aren’t publishing their prices. He highlights how, when he was a hospital administrator, his mentor explained to him that healthcare is one of the only industries where consumers are in a completely vulnerable state. He calls on hospitals to reflect this reality when they go about their business.
Field correspondent Kate Pecora interviews Meredith Casey, who runs the Mighty Meredith Project. Meredith tells her story of living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which she suffered when she hit her head on a granite countertop. She explains how she has lived with chronic pain every day for the last five years and the ensuing depression and anxiety. She highlights her foundation’s work providing gifts to children in hospitals and rewards for acts of kindness. Last Christmas, the Mighty Meredith Project collected $20,000 to give gifts to those in Tufts Hospital.