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HHS may force hospitals to post their real prices

A long white hospital hallway.
Photo: Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal reports that HHS is thinking about forcing doctors and hospitals to publicly disclose how much they get paid from insurance companies — not just the list prices they start out with.

Why it matters: WSJ sums it up nicely — this move "would expose for the first time the actual cost of care."

Between the lines: The rates negotiated between insurers and hospitals are highly prized secrets for both parties.

  • If you're an insurer who has negotiated a good rate, you don't want to tell your competitors what it is — then they'd be able to demand something similar and begin competing with you more aggressively on price.
  • And if you're a hospital, you don't want that lower rate revealed for basically the same reason — to keep your highest payments coming in.

Hospitals were already miffed at the administration for making them post their list prices, or "chargemasters." Expect to see even stronger industry pushback against this latest idea.

The intrigue: HHS actually released this proposal a month ago, but no one noticed until now because it was tucked into a 724-page rule on health information technology.

Go deeper: Hospitals' prices keep going up