To the Editor:
Readers Jerry Jung and Mary Nelson propose solutions to American hospitals’ strange practice of charging uninsured patients drastically higher prices than insured patients. Their solutions demand more government action, but government is a major cause of this madness.
Nobody really understands Medicare’s payment regulations, but experts agree that it is generally illegal for hospitals to give discounts to uninsured patients, or otherwise let them “off the hook” as charity cases, without first sending unpaid invoices (at sky-high list prices) to collection agencies, with the full knowledge that almost nothing will be recovered. This is designed to ensure that Medicare’s fixed prices are discounted from the prices others face.
While some states have passed laws that attempt to leverage more transparency, these laws cannot be effective as long as the federal government fixes hospital prices. Many Americans are increasingly aware that Medicare is driving our nation into bankruptcy, but few appreciate the acute harm its daily operations cause American patients.