Hospitals Make $120 Billion While Skirting Federal Transparency Law

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolicy

Three of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the U.S. made a combined $120 billion in 2021, while violating federal transparency laws, according to an investigation by Patient Rights Advocate.

The Affordable Care Act mandated that hospitals disclose what charges patients beginning January 1, 2021.

The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires providers to post prices for their medical services online in a “machine-readable standard charges list for all items and services for all payers and plans” as well as a “standard charges list or price estimator tool for the 300 most common shoppable services,” according to the report.

This was done to increase competition and reduce prices.

RELATED: Consumer Prices Rise 8.5%, Highest In 40 Years

The Patient Rights Advocate report found that only 14 percent of the 1,000 hospitals reviewed were compliant with these regulations, and only 0.5 percent of hospitals owned by the three largest U.S. hospital systems – HCA Healthcare, CommonSpirit Health, and Ascension – were compliant.

None of the HCA Healthcare system’s 118 hospitals were compliant, the report found, and those three large systems made a combined $120 billion (page 3).

Open The Books studied the largest non-profit health care providers in the country in 2019 and found that their revenues and assets continued to grow as consumer prices skyrocketed, all while receiving tax breaks for their “non-profit” status.

Patient Rights Advocate determined that hospitals would have to pay $12,000 each to conform to the transparency rules.

Why is hospitals reluctant to list their prices publicly? Perhaps fear of competition is a reason. Consumers might be able to shop around for the most affordable medical services if hospitals follow the law.

The U.S. needs to enforce its laws to ensure hospitals are being transparent in their pricing, since they won’t voluntarily obey the law.

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