Folwell praises feds’ stand on health care cost transparency


You ought to be informed about what X is going to cost you before you undergo the x procedure.  Right?  Well,  hospital lobbyists and the legislators they own on Jones Street worked overtime to ensure that wouldn’t happen on the state level.  Well, it looks like the federal government is forcing the state’s hand on this one:

[…] A historic federal rule requires hospitals to publish all their prices online in a “machine-readable file” and to post a consumer-friendly list of prices for 300 shoppable services. For decades, hospital prices remained a secret until patients got the bills. This rule is a good start to ending the secret contracts that make health care unaffordable for the average consumer. 

According to media reports, hospitals are refusing to abandon a business model based on secrecy. Almost 80% of American hospitals failed to comply with the transparency rule, according to a study in JAMA. Our nation’s largest hospital chains believed it was more profitable to break federal rules and pay a $300 fine each day. The federal government has upended that arithmetic by proposing a $2 million fine on large hospitals that don’t comply for one year. 

“We have to protect patients, now more than ever. The pandemic has thrown millions out of work and widened economic inequality,” said NC state Treasurer Dale Folwell. “The majority of Americans say they’re one medical bill away from losing their upward mobility. Nearly two-thirds of Americans delay health care each year because of high prices. Right now, a starting teacher or trooper must work one week out of every month just to pay the family premium for health care.” 

Without transparency, patients are forced to pay vastly different rates even within the same building. At one hospital in Winston-Salem, removing an appendix might cost $9,470 or $47,763. These prices don’t depend on the surgery’s complications. They depend on the patients’ insurance cards. 

You would never walk into a grocery store without knowing the prices,” said Treasurer Folwell. “You would never agree to buy a house with a blank check. But patients are forced to hand over a blank check every day in health care.” 

The lack of transparency has allowed price and quality to part ways. Our largest hospital systems charge patients an average of seven times their cost of care, according to Johns Hopkins University research. But multiple studies have proven that higher prices don’t deliver better care. Price transparency is needed to bring back accountability.  

“This is not about hospital workers. It’s about the multimillion-dollar salaries of executives who continue to operate their multibillion-dollar NON-PROFIT companies in secret. State leaders must make it clear that hospitals cannot continue to exploit patients and extinguish competition,” added Treasurer Folwell. “Patients deserve to know the price before they get the bill. When hospitals deny patients the right to know prices up front, hospitals are denying patients the freedom to make informed decisions and protect their financial health.”  

The State Health Plan (SHP), a division of the N.C. Department of State Treasurer, provides health care coverage to almost 750,000 teachers, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel, active and retired state employees, and their dependents.  […]