Comparison shopping has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the release of government data that shows hospitals across the country and within the same geographic region are charging significantly different rates for identical inpatient services.
This data provided by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services marks the first time information about hospital rates has been released publicly. With increased transparency, consumers (particularly those who are uninsured or have limited coverage) can shop more wisely for health care.
Medicare, which sets its own reimbursement rates, pays less than what hospitals charge, however federal officials believe the data will help consumers become better informed. Also, the release of this data comes at a time when policymakers are trying to halt the rising tide of health care costs, including hospital payments which account for the largest share of Medicare spending.