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Bill Transparency: Lessons Learned South of the Border

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2010

As a healthcare writer, I know more than the average patient and yet I'm frequently left dumbfounded by these seemingly simple actions that could be taken to make patients' lives easier and invariably give hospitals a better upfront chance to recoup payment for treatment.

I have consistently found that it is the hospitals that immediately offer me an excuse as to why they cannot provide an estimated bill for a patient that are also often the ones who are financially struggling. They immediately point to the cost and manpower required to provide such a bill and then throw their hands in the air and say, "We can't do it; it wouldn't be accurate. We don't have the money to set this up and our technology isn't there yet."

Well perhaps if you can't come up with the money, or innovation, to get it done, then your patients shouldn't have to come up with the money either. Which is what is already happening—the patients aren't coming up with the money and your uncompensated care costs are rising.

Estimates are by their nature educated guesses and with a bit of effort a series of spreadsheets can provide enough data to make these estimates a reality. If a naval hospital in Mexico can estimate a hospital bill, certainly all of the hospitals in the United States can do the same.

We are in a serious recession and even when this cloud passes, the climate will never be the same for any industry, including healthcare. Some say it is the lack of innovation and our sense of entitlement that got us into this recession in the first place. I agree. Solutions don't have to be expensive and the latest technology may be the best answer, but it isn't the only one. It's time to innovate.


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Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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