Cost of healthcare is no longer a secret

Story by Sarah Day, News Editor

Under a new health law included in the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are required to provide prices for various procedures to patients online as of Jan 1, 2019. This is in hopes that customers feel a greater sense of transparency from potential providers. Because of the increased straightforward nature, patients will now be able to choose a facility that is best for them physically, emotionally, mentally and economically.

Although this is a step in the right direction and it seems as though the government is encouraging patients to become educated in their healthcare decisions, hospitals may be less transparent than it appears.

This is because they are not required to list costs associated with consultation visits and those that are connected directly to the physician. Furthermore, as a large number of U.S. citizens carry health insurance, the cost that is listed may not be the number that a patient ends up paying. Deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance must be taken into account by the consumer when researching possible procedure cost.

Because of this, it would be more helpful for patients to have procedures listed with a price range rather than one number. Each person’s insurance situation is different in regard to out-of-pocket costs, as are the types of hospitals. Many nonprofit locations are basing the estimated cost on the patient’s income rather than having a set listed price for all customers.

Health centers are required to update prices at least once per year. However, with the fluctuating economy and continuing medical advances, it would be more helpful to consumers for hospitals to update costs biyearly or quarterly.

Patients would benefit further if this law also required healthcare facilities to list frequently used materials as well as alternative options for a particular procedure. This is because, due to allergies, cultural or religious practices, some materials are not appropriate for a particular person.

Publicizing the costs associated with procedures has led people to believe that the listed number is what they will pay in the end. Similar to shopping for any other big-ticket item, patients should research with care in order to make the best possible decision.