Dr. Tianyan Hu, assistant professor in the department of health policy & management at the FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, and a research team from the University of Miami, FL, recently published the results of an interesting healthcare study in the Journal of Health Care Finance. Entitled “Does Media Attention Highlighting Hospitals with High Charges Lead to Charge Reductions?” this paper focuses on the 20 hospitals in Florida that recorded the highest charge-to-cost rations in 2015 and received significant public outcry for it.
The research team compared the total charges for these hospitals before and after media attention and public scrutiny to trends in total charges in the other hospitals in the state. The team found no evidence that hospitals responded to the publicity with any meaningful reductions in charges. Charges in the third quarter of 2015 were significantly higher than charges in previous quarters. This study shows that as hospital charges continue to rise and the best path forward to address price transparency continues to elude policy makers and stakeholders, it is important to recognize that hospitals may not respond quickly to public exposure and these initiatives.
Dr. Hu explained that the findings are critical under the current health care reform. More than seven hundred thousand low-income patients were left uninsured due to Florida’s decision of not expanding the Medicaid program. These patients face high medical bills, and they have little negotiation power against hospital systems, which creates a serious affordability issue. Despite the fact that ACA requires all hospitals to publish their standard charges for items and services, there hasn’t been any rules implementing this provision. Implementation of such a rule will help to solve the affordability issue, promote price transparency, and possibly facilitate a national dialogue on hospital price variations.
You can learn more about the research findings and their implications in the two media pieces: “Research: What Happens When Hospitals Are Publicly Shamed Over Prices? Not So Much” (NPR) and “Despite being shamed for overcharging patients, hospital raised their prices, again” (The Washington Post)
Dr. Hu received her PhD in economics from Lehigh University. Before joining FIU, Dr. Hu was a visiting health economist at the National Center for Health Statistics (CDC) and a fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests focus primarily on the cost-benefit analyses of a wide range of health policies, using economic principles and state-of-the-art econometric tools. She is also interested in research topics including the benefit design of drug plans, the use of preventive care services, the adoption of health information technology and Medicaid managed care programs.