Does bad press for prices get hospitals to lower rates?

Health Affairs published a study of the top 50 American hospitals with the highest cost markups in 2015. This year, University of Miami researchers questioned 20 Florida-based hospitals that made the list to find how negative publicity affected their chargemasters.

Last year, researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Washington and LeeUniversity in Lexington, Va., used Medicare data from 2012 to rank the 50 hospitals in the country that charge commercial insurers the greatest markups above Medicare rates. The study generated negative media attention on hospital pricing practices.

This year, University if Miami researchers compared total charges in the 20 Florida hospitals before and after Health Affairs published its list, and compared that to trends in total charges at other state hospitals. The study was published in the Journal of Health Care Finance.

Researchers found no evidence hospitals responded to public scrutiny and negative media attention with any meaningful reduction in charges.

"We assume [cost transparency tools] perhaps steer patients to comparison-shop when it comes to [medical] services," lead author and researcher Karoline Mortensen, PhD, told WRLN. "But that probably won't have an effect on the hospitals actually considering what to charge particular patients. They're already taking that into account when they set their chargemasters. They're looking around at what other hospitals are charging so they know what their competition is doing."

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