The shocking reason hospitals keep their prices a secret from you

Congress has provided hospitals with nearly $200 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic. House Democrats just passed a bill adding another $100 billion. Now it’s time to stop bailing out hospitals and start helping financially stressed families get better health care at lower costs.

In health care, most prices are hidden. Earlier this month, big, profitable hospital systems were in court to make sure that American patients remain in the dark, challenging a Trump administration rule that would require them to publicize prices, including those negotiated with insurance companies.

No other industry is fighting to hide prices from consumers. When given pricing information, people know how to shop for value. With websites like Amazon and Kayak, Americans use price information to secure the best deals. This forces providers to compete by lowering prices and improving quality. Health-care markets don’t work like this.

Imagine going to the grocery store to buy milk, bread and butter, but without any prices. You check out and the grocer tells you that your bill will come in a few weeks. In about a month, you get both an explanation of grocery benefits from your insurer and a bill from the grocer for $150.

You know this can’t be right — a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a pack of butter can’t cost this much. You call your insurer, and they ask what you are complaining about. Without their discount, you would have paid $250. They saved you $100!

Sounds crazy, but this is how we pay for most of our health care. It’s actually worse because of huge price variation across insurers. The parallel would be if two other people purchase those same goods and one of them is charged $50 and the other is charged $400.

A lack of price information has led both insurers and hospitals to become lazy and inefficient. They can deliver mediocre or even poor care at high cost and still see their bottom lines improve. Counter to common perception, health insurers aren’t interested in lower health-care costs since they gain more revenue from higher spending. Insurers pass the higher costs to employers and employees through higher premiums while they tell us what a great “discount” we received.

The Trump administration rule would also require hospitals to post prices for at least 300 shoppable services on their websites in a consumer-friendly way. With this information, consumers and employers would force insurers, hospitals and health-care providers to compete by lowering costs and improving value. By lowering what Americans spend on health care, it will leave families with more income to save for their retirement, help pay for their kids’ education, or take a family vacation. Now, more than ever, Americans have a greater incentive to make smart health care choices, as high deductible plans and health savings accounts are both growing.

The hospitals claim the Trump administration exceeded its authority in issuing its price transparency rule. We don’t know if that’s true, but there’s a simple fix. Congress can pass this action and ensure that Americans have access to real prices in health care.

This is especially important now as the economic recession pinches family budgets across the country. Congress has already taken care of hospitals. Now it should help patients by giving them the control and information they need to be effective health-care shoppers.

Brian Blase served as a special assistant to President Trump at the National Economic Council, 2017-19. He is president of Blase Policy Strategies LLC.

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Map reveals hospitals worst hit by coronavirus across England – The Sun

THIS map reveals the hospitals hit hardest by coronavirus across England.

New NHS figures show that every major hospital trust has recorded at least one death – but some have been more badly affected than others.

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Of the 32,065 coronavirus deaths officially recorded in the UK, 23,359 were in NHS hospitals in England.

The 10 worst-hit were in the country's biggest cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Derby – where a total of 4,808 people died of Covid-19.

Those figures mean that 16 per cent of the total death toll was concentrated into just 4.6 per cent of the country's hospitals.

University Hospitals Birmingham has been the hardest hit trust with at least 820 Covid-19 deaths, followed by Barts Health in London where 558 people died of the disease.

And the figures show that the capital was indeed the epicentre of the crisis as London hospitals accounted for 11 of the 20 worst-affected.

Geographical disparity

Other major cities including Liverpool, Leeds and Sunderland also recorded the highest number of deaths.

Forty hospitals have recorded at least 200 deaths respectively and account for more than 50 per cent of the total death toll with 12,495 fatalities.

Just 20 have recorded one fatality each, while a further 13 had two victims.

NHS Trusts and hospitals with fewest coronavirus deaths

  1. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust – 1
  2. Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Trust – 1
  3. NHS Nightingale Hospital, London – 1
  4. South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust – 1
  5. Humber Teaching NHS Trust – 1
  6. Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust – 1
  7. North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust – 1
  8. Kent & Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership – 1
  9. Chippenham Community Hospital, Wiltshire – 1
  10. Central London Community Healthcare – 2

This list doesn't include private facilities

Most of these were outside of the cities or in the countryside, where people are less likely to live in flats or use public transport.

Smaller settings, including community health partnerships, minor hospitals, private hospitals and children's hospitals recorded fewer fatalities.

Woodlands Hospital in Darlington, a private facility run by BMI, is the only hospital not to have recorded a single death, according to the NHS statistics.

New analysis released today suggests that the total death toll in the UK may be far higher than these latest NHS figures though.

According to the Office For National Statistics (ONS), there were 35,044 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales up to May 1.

The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, published last week, showed 2,795 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to May 3.

And the latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, also published last week, showed 516 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Northern Ireland up to May 6.

Together these figures mean that so far 38,355 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

In England's hospitals 1,678 patients died from coronavirus from May 2 and May 10, according to NHS England.

This brings the overall death toll to just over 40,000.

It comes as it was revealed that almost 10,000 people have died of coronavirus in UK care homes, including 1,558 in just a week.


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