Thanks, Trump! Hospitals now to post prices

In another quiet little reform to chip away the Obamacare and health care monolith, the Trump administration is forcing hospitals to post their prices online.

Here's how Quartz described the news:

Astronomical hospital bills are a trope of American health care. Hospitals in the US are known for charging exorbitant fees for simple procedures, and for adding baffling entries to discharge bills. Notorious examples include the woman who was charged $40 to hold her newborn, and the $18,000 emergency-rom bill that a family received after their baby was “treated” with some milk and a nap.

The surprise factor, at least, may soon be changing. On Jan. 1, a new regulation takes effect requiring hospitals to post the prices of their services online. Announced by health and human services secretary Alex Azar in April, the provision is called Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule. Under it, hospitals will have to share the prices of standard services online, as well as make medical records more easily accessible by patients themselves, and shareable between medical practices.

It's not an entirely friendly report, but at least they covered it, unlike, say, most of the major media outlets. Plus, they didn't try to tell readers it was all negative news, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's report rather questionably did.

Actually, if you buy Obamacare or many other kinds of services, you now have a bit more power. You can choose and estimate how much that necessary hospital stay is going to cost and weigh it with what your insurance covers (a calculator works pretty well with this, contrary to the naysaying reports), compare it to the quality of your own needs (do you need a top-rated research hospital for a common minor procedure, or will an ordinary neighborhood place without national ranking but better pricing work better?) and compare what you pay with what you receive. 

That in turn, as Quartz notes, will foster something welcome in the health care field - competition, and the economic concept known as comparative advantage. Each hospital will get more business in what consumers consider the fields it does best, and less business in what it does less well.

It's a win-win for both sides, consumer and hospital, because customers can comparison-shop, not just with hospital rankings, but with hospital prices, and hospitals will respond in a market way, by looking to new efficiencies that can cut prices and bring in consumers. That's better than the alternative, which is strange surprise high pricing, and no warning to consumers who, as they count their pennies, rue the fact that they could have gone elsewhere, but had no way of knowing where. 

This is pretty important news, yet if you search Google on it, you don't see the majors reporting on it at all. Just the little local presses, and the main papers in non-coastal mid-market cities, such as Cincinnati and New Orleans, whose readers will find this information very empowering and interesting. If that doesn't show how out-of-touch the press is, what does? The big presses spend all their space on one thing: telling us how great Obamacare is and how more government in health care is always good thing. This move, which involves a regulation, must throw them for a loop, given that it's a regulation, yet it empowers consumers more than bureaucrats. That's not their "narrative."

President Trump deserves thanks for once again, looking out for the little guy.

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