Never mind that consumers are the last group hospitals should worry about comparing their prices, but over time, says Moody's, greater threats will come from payers, employers, and yes, Washington, DC. For this time period, the credit rating firm is more concerned along these lines:
"First, it's conceivable that a hospital system may adopt price transparency as a marketing strategy. Such a strategy would appeal to large self-insured employers and price sensitive consumers (ie: those with high deductibles or co-insurance rates) shopping for discrete, non-emergent healthcare services such as hip or knee replacement, bariatric surgery, elective heart surgery and other procedures.
This strategy could be national in scope and would not need to be limited to a single market or region. There are already examples of domestic medical tourism whereby a hospital provides a discrete set of services for a flat fee. In some cases, the hospital also offers a quality guarantee." (italics are mine, because I'll have a story out about this in the July issue of HealthLeaders magazine, so stay tuned.)
Also from the Moody's analysis:
"Second, the data could also be used by third parties advocating for change among hospital pricing and billing practices. The cost of healthcare services is receiving significant media attention and is the subject of intense political debate in Washington DC as federal healthcare spending on Medicare and Medicaid are significant drivers of the federal deficit. California already requires hospitals to disclose data on charges (similar to what CMS has published) and similar requirements are under consideration in other states including Maine and North Carolina.
Massachusetts enacted legislation to limit the growth in healthcare costs to state GDP, and numerous states have rejected insurance premium increases deemed excessive. Although none of these actions is individually responsible for a slowdown in healthcare cost, collectively they point to the significant attention policymakers are giving to the issue of healthcare costs.
It is conceivable that states will require additional disclosure on actual prices paid, inviting greater regulation of the industry. Such a development would have material impact on hospitals' marketing and billing strategies and would carry negative credit implications for those that are slow to adapt." (emphasis mine)