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Hospitals that overcharge can’t be shamed

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“Eve {Shamed} After the Fall,” by Rodin.

Overcharging of hospital patients and insurers, overwhelmingly concentrated in the for-profit sector, continues apace, with “shaming” not working, reports HealthcareDive and The Washington Post.

The news service referenced a  study last year  that outed 50 hospitals that were charging patients more than 10 times the actual cost of care, compared to the typical 3.4 times the cost of care markup.

With 20 of those hospitals  in Florida (perhaps the national epicenter of Medicare fraud),  a separate  study this year by researchers at the University of Miami looked into whether those Sunshine State hospitals lowered their prices in response to public pressure.

The study found that charges were  higher overall after the publicity. Good news for shareholders of  such hospital companies as HCA if not for patients and insurers!

HealthcareDave wrote: “The findings indicate any impacts from price shaming are fleeting and provide no controls over hospitals, which leaves them accountable to no one, study author Karoline Mortensen told The Washington Post.

“The study raises questions about how effective efforts toward price transparency will ultimately be if many hospitals don’t mind reputations for high costs due to factors including lack of competition, and lack of price regulation in all states but Maryland and West Virginia.”

“The hospitals may also be counting on patients to maintain an assumption that higher prices are tied to better care, but the study found the opposite to be true, concluding 20 hospitals studied were actually less likely than other Florida hospitals to earn three or more stars in CMS’s quality metrics system.”

Of the 20 Florida hospitals,  one was a nonprofit and the rest were part of the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) system or linked with Community Health Systems.

Interestingly, some years ago, HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts and paid out more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits arising from fraud. Then Chairman and CEO Rick Scott was forced to resign at the beginning of the federal investigation. He now, of course, is governor of Florida!

To read the HealthcareDive article, please hit this link.

To read The Washington Post article, please hit this link.

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