TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you’ve ever been blindsided by a big hospital bill, you may have wondered if you could have gotten a better deal somewhere else. A new federal rule requires hospitals to post the price of all their procedures so you can comparison shop. There’s just one problem: a lot of Florida hospitals just aren’t doing it.
The same procedure can cost a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars. It all depends on the rate the hospital privately negotiates with the payer.
Seven months ago, the feds said hospitals must reveal these secret rates – but most still aren’t doing it. And many patients don’t know their rights.
A dream Florida vacation took a bad turn for Louis Yarmolinsky. After falling on a boat, he went to the hospital to get an MRI of his back.
“The whole process between talking to that doctor and the actual getting the MRI was probably 20 minutes,” Yarmolinsky said.
Those 20 minutes, after insurance, cost Louis $1,211. Since then, he’s discovered, he could’ve gotten the same procedure at a fraction of the cost.
“Just knowing that you have the right to know…is what I want to get across,” he explained.
Right now, patients have the right to go to the website of any hospital and know the cost of service for any procedure by any payer and specific health plan.
“This is a huge win because it creates a competitive functional market in health care and we’re at the very beginning of it,” said Cynthia Fisher, the founder and chairman of the nonprofit PatientRightsAdvocate.org. “We have never had this ability before to be able to see these prices and be able to shop.”
Approximately 6,000 U.S. hospitals are currently required to post the price of procedures online. The theory is price transparency will cause you to shop around and, as competition rises, the cost of health care will fall.
While the Trump administration rule took effect Jan. 1, a new report from PatientRightsAdvocate.org found many hospitals are still not posting their rates.
“Of the sampling that we found – [out of] over 30 hospitals in Florida, only two were compliant,” said Fisher.
The report looked at a random sample of 500 hospital websites, including more than 30 in Florida. It found more than 94% aren’t following the new federal rules.
Fisher says the penalties need to increase to force hospitals to do the right thing.
“Our organization believes that stronger and even more harsh penalties are likely needed to get all of these hospitals into compliance,” said Fisher.
You can read the Semi-Annual Hospital Price Transparency Compliance Report from Patient Rights Advocate online.
Earlier this month, the Biden Administration proposed higher penalties for hospitals that aren’t complying.
If you’re having an issue with hospital price transparency in the Tampa Bay area, contact Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.