An End to Medical-Billing Secrecy?

It’s time every American starts asking questions when getting health care. Asking Doctors to explain your problem in layman’s terms asking how much is this going to cost. Even if you have health insurance.

Swampland

This article appears in this week’s magazine under the title, “Goodbye to the Surgical Mask.” It has been updated from the online version.

Our hospital bill is about to get a thorough examination. Acting on the suggestion of her top data crunchers at the department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released an enormous data file on May 8 that reveals the list—or “chargemaster”—prices of all hospitals across the country for the 100 most common inpatient treatment services in 2011. It then compares those prices with what Medicare actually paid hospitals for the same treatments—which was typically a fraction of the chargemaster prices.

As a result, Americans are a big step closer to being able to compare what hospitals charge them for goods and services with what they actually cost. CMS public-affairs director Brian Cook told me that Sebelius’ action today comes…

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