Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

August 14, 2013

State’s hospitals embrace price transparency

What hospitals charge rarely reflects how much they are ultimately reimbursed by providers

Following the federal government’s release of data on hospital charges for Medicare patients, much has been written nationally about how health care providers determine prices, the variation in charges for the same procedure and the willingness of hospitals to “come clean” on the issue of price transparency.

As president of the Indiana Hospital Association, representing 164 Hoosier hospitals and health systems, we fully embrace price transparency. Our members welcome the opportunity to help patients better understand the costs associated with the round-the-clock care they need, the quality of our care, as well as the value all patients receive when seeking treatment – no matter how severe their situation.

The cost of treatment is difficult to measure, made complex over the years due to the system created by the government for patients who receive their health care through Medicare and Medicaid benefits – often at costs that far exceed what is paid to hospitals. The demands for discounts by private insurance companies create further complexity for hospitals and patients to determine the true cost of any given procedure.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that each patient is unique. A procedure performed on a 27-year-old, otherwise healthy male will likely cost less than the same procedure performed on a 57-year-old male who is overweight and diabetic.

Meanwhile, the rate of care for which hospitals are not compensated at all continues to grow. In 2011, Indiana hospitals provided nearly $3 billion in uncompensated care for the uninsured and underinsured. Shifting these costs has long been part of our complex health care system. Thus, what hospitals charge rarely reflects how much hospitals are ultimately reimbursed by government or private insurers.

Despite these difficulties, moving toward price transparency is a priority. Already, the Indiana Hospital Association and its members are working to find the best solution. That solution must include cooperation from private insurers and the business community without whom health care providers are unable to report accurate pricing information to consumers.

Nevertheless, the word “transparency” is nothing new for Indiana’s health care industry. Hoosier hospitals have for many years embraced greater transparency of their quality reporting. In 2001, the Institute of Medicine released a comprehensive report on health care quality measures. The report revealed inconsistent care and a lack of evidence-based practices across the country, leading the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release quality measures on all hospitals. This effort at improving quality transparency was embraced by hospitals and has revolutionized the focus on quality and patient safety.

Achieving greater price transparency will take time, effort and commitment from all parties involved to make the necessary changes to our systems, to our payer contracts and to our bills. And this effort will not eliminate the complexity of providing medical care to human beings. Nor will it eliminate the demands that continue to cause health care spending to grow. Price transparency is just one piece of the health care puzzle, but an important and critical one that must be addressed.

Despite the progress Indiana hospitals have made by improving quality, and the work begun to ensure price transparency for patients, are we where we need to be? No, but we are getting closer. By working with private insurers so consumers get a complete picture of their out-of-pocket charges, and collaborating with the business community to report that information, together, we may finally succeed in delivering the health care system that Hoosiers deserve.

Douglas J. Leonard is  president of the Indiana Hospital Association.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 16, 2014

    At the time the agenda for the April 7 commissioner meeting came out, I was happy to see that the neglected commissioner board appointments were finally going to be addressed. These appointments had been in limbo for months on end.

    April 16, 2014

  • Hayden: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids

    The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards.
    That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation data were released last week.

    April 15, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 15, 2014

    In a recent “public eye” article written by KT columnist Scott Smith about the proposed industrial wind turbine project; mention was made of the “new deal” brokered by Howard County Commissioners with E.ON.

    April 15, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Mike Pence for president in 2016? Stay tuned Mike Pence for president? The swirl of 2016 national ticket talk surrounding Gov. Pence intensified over the past few weeks. I sat down with the governor in his office on Tuesday to find out what he's really thinking. A few hours prior, the Weekly S

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll