The article “Hospital Charges Shown to Vary Widely,” (Feb. 15) by Steve Twedt, discusses wide discrepancies in hospital pricing. The article highlights two major issues: hospitals with local monopolies that can set their own prices and the lack of pricing information available to patients.
Health care is an industry that is unique, in that patients cannot efficiently shop for the best price, and most often are forced to accept whatever price hospitals charge. When you combine the lack of consumer information with local hospital monopolies such as UPMC, these hospitals can essentially charge whatever they want.
The best way to combat this market inefficiency is to enact a program similar to Maryland, where the state sets the rates that hospitals can charge. This model has led to lower costs for patients in Maryland and has not affected their ability to access world-class care at hospitals like Johns Hopkins. Insurance companies clearly do not have the power to negotiate for lower rates with large monopolies; the state must take action.