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How Chargemaster Data May Affect Hospital Revenue

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 21, 2013

The now transparent federal database of hospital prices could motivate hospital financial assistance offices to write more flexible policies for collecting from uninsured, underinsured, and Medicare Advantage patients.

Some hospital industry executives dismiss the release of the federal chargemaster list of prices for 100 types of hospital care, saying it bears little relation to the charges that are actually negotiated and paid.

But that may not be the whole story. This now transparent database could make a big difference right away for the uninsured, the underinsured, and for some Medicare Advantage patients, perhaps impacting hospital financial assistance offices that will need to write more flexible policies if they want to get paid.

"The issue will be for those folks that end up having to deal with chargemaster charges, which is the uninsured consumers," says Greg Knoll, executive director and chief counsel of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

"For them and their advocates, it becomes something to use in negotiation around how the cost of their care should be discounted." Knoll says he sees the chargemaster as "another arrow in the quiver" for those like him who represent the poor to negotiate lower payments.

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