And though hospitals have long been required to share this data with CMS, hospital leaders, as Forbes so aptly puts it, "have traditionally guarded this information from the public as carefully as the launch codes required to start a nuclear holocaust."
Now that the sticker prices are freely available, it's clear why hospitals wanted to lock up the information and throw away the key. Nobody wanted the distinction of having the highest billing rates in the nation. Sorry, Bayonne Medical Center. You're it.
There are vast price variations within states, counties, and even cities. This realization has caused an outcry among the public and media, prompting The Huffington Post website to create a comparative graphic and The Washington Post to build a helpful comparative tool that allows you to contrast hospitals by state.
The release of the data creates a unique problem for marketers as any promotions or even public acknowledgement of pricing is uncharted territory. While marketers have traditionally been charged chiefly with touting the qualities of their services, the exposure of pricing data adds a whole new dimension to the mix.
Miami market case study
Already, the Miami, FL healthcare market is creating keen interest in how hospitals are reacting to the release of prices.
The CEO of Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Medical Center, Steve Sonenreich, is upping the ante. He made a public pledge on a local radio show to divulge the contractual rates the hospital pays private insurers for diagnoses and treatments, according to the Miami Herald.