Healthcare Costs 'An Abomination' Says Senate Finance Committee Chair

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , June 19, 2013

The other three witnesses pressed on and commented on a broad range of pricing and healthcare transparency issues. They were:

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How much hospitals charge for the same procedures (source: The New York Times)
  • Suzanne F. Delbanco, PhD, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform, a non-profit company that works on behalf of large employers and public healthcare purchasers.
  • Giovanni Colella, MD, CEO of Castlight Health, which provides healthcare cost and quality information to employers.
  • Paul Ginsburg, PhD, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change and research director at the National Institute for Healthcare Reform.

While there was general agreement that price and quality transparency will help consumers more wisely spend their healthcare dollars, there was considerable handwringing over the role transparency can play in resolving the high cost of healthcare.

"I am concerned that policy makers have focused too much concern on the amount of information available rather than the reliability and usefulness of that information," stated Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking member of the committee.

See Also: How Chargemaster Data May Affect Hospital Revenue

The discussion between the panelists and Senate committee members was framed around several broad issues. As is typical of these hearings there were a lot of questions and dearth of specific recommendations:

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Comments are moderated. Please be patient.

4 comments on "Healthcare Costs 'An Abomination' Says Senate Finance Committee Chair"

A. Duane Seabury (6/19/2013 at 3:58 PM)
Senator Baucus, I have been in healthcare for more than 35 years. The biggest problems have been created by Congressional action with no understanding or appreciation of the healthcare industry. Like the post office and social security, Congress is "managing" us right out of business. Decision one needs to answer the questions of fee for service or socialized medicine. You can't have it both ways. Once that question is answered then steps can be taken to make it happen. Look at the history going back to Medicare's initiation; take a hard look at Hill Burton; dissect the Medicaid program and at least try to understand the route that was taken by Congress to deliver us to this point. You need to be speaking to healthcare "experts" without skin in the game and you need to show the insurance lobbyists to the door. Oh...while your at it, take some time and actually define the calculations that will be the standard for quantifying and discussing "costs". So far, I haven't seen anything more than a broad brush on "rising healthcare costs".

Will Aclin (6/19/2013 at 2:33 PM)
It's true that nobody actually pays chargemaster rates, but hospitals have no problem billing those rates to uninsured folks and then creating financial chaos when they can't pay. While people with good insurance pay next to nothing for the same services (and their insurance company negotiates a rate less than a third of the chargemaster rate). The 2 major negatives about the chargemaster for me are these: 1) it's good at creating unnecessary financial chaos for the uninsured, and 2) these are the same "rates" that get applied to "Charity Care" reports for US hospitals (for-profit and non-profit). Doesn't seem quite right if you ask me.

Amanda Holt (6/19/2013 at 12:38 PM)
The "chargemaster" concept has become an irrelevant price list and it's "transparency" is only causing consumer concern and distrust of health care providers. You call for transparency? Then why don't insurance company's divulge their contractual rates to their participants so insured individuals can see exactly what their monthly premiums are NOT paying for? Why don't we fix the system so insurance companies actually pay for services and supplies that are rendered based on geographical costs of providing care rather than forcing providers to keep ramping up the "chargemaster" in the hopes of getting sufficient payment for service - if they get payment at all? CMS is the lowest paying institution and, yet, they have the most control over health care functions and regulations? How has our capitalist society allowed this to happen?




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