Crowd-sourcing May Bring Transparency to Medical Charges

In a recent column I reported on an effort in Ohio to bring price transparency to medical services. Ohio State Rep. Jim Butler had spearheaded passage of legislation that would require healthcare providers including doctors and hospitals to disclose prices for their services. The law was supposed to take effect last summer, but Gov. John Kasich, the Ohio Hospital Association, and other health groups that oppose transparency have stymied implementation. The governor’s budget for next year calls for repealing the law.

Ohio’s law may disappear, but the demand for information is not going away. Many readers are downright angry after trying hard — and unsuccessfully — to get information to make good medical decisions.

James Friesen, a lending officer at a bank in Kearney, Nebraska, told me when he wanted to pay cash for a cardiac test his insurer wouldn’t pay for, he couldn’t find out the negotiated price his insurer had agreed to pay the hospital. Neither his insurer nor the hospital would say. “The doctor who ordered the test didn’t even know,” he said. “They intentionally keep patient consumers in the dark about pricing.”

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