North Carolina hospitals criticized for 'extreme' mark-ups, lack of transparency

You might pay $228.90 for an MRI leg scan as a Medicare patient in North Carolina, or you might pay over $3,000 at more expensive hospitals. Knee replacements can be double the median cost at some hospitals.

Such is the vast difference between what health systems charge in the state for shoppable procedures, and many such differences are not made transparent to patients, according to a recent report from the state treasurer's office.

While the lack of pricing transparency is a nationwide problem, the report cites a description of North Carolina being one of the "worst, most expensive states for healthcare." Only about half of the 140 hospitals analyzed in the report complied with federal rules on such transparency.

Such pricing disparities also become "more extreme" when systems consolidate, the report claims. Fifty-seven hospitals in the state boasted perfect monopolies in 2018, well before recent large-profile mergers, according to the report.

North Carolina legislators are currently considering the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, which would require much greater transparency and strengthen consumer protection against medical debt burdens. That bill has passed unanimously in the state Senate.

The full report can be read here.

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