Miami Herald, July 5, 2011

Miami-Dade taxpayers know how much they pay for street lights, school buses and sidewalks, but they don't know how much they pay for pacemakers and defibrillators purchased by their public hospitals in Jackson Health System —a form of pricing secrecy that drives up healthcare costs for everyone, experts say. Jackson spokesmen say the financially strapped system can't reveal how much it pays because it has signed contracts with vendors that include clauses that call the prices "trade secrets." Such clauses are standard in the medical world and exempt from public records laws, they say. But the secrecy means that Jackson can't compare its prices to what many other hospitals pay. That's like a consumer going to buy a flat-screen TV and not knowing what others are paying for the same brand, said Curtis Rooney, president of the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association. "We call them gag clauses. People can't find out the best price."

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