Under the hood on hospital pricing

A doctor checks on a patient in an emergency room bed.
A doctor examines a patient in the emergency room. Photo: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The actual prices hospitals charge private health insurers are closely guarded trade secrets. But a widely circulated health economics paper, which received some new updates, uses actual claims data from three national insurers to show the inner workings of how hospitals get paid.

The bottom line: Hospitals make a lot of money off patients who get their health coverage through their jobs, and hospitals with little or no competition have the power to set their rates at will.