Chargemasters go prime time…

Health care costs are the subject of Steven Brill’s Time Magazine opus that has gotten a lot of attention recently.

It’s not news to our coalition members, how hospital prices and bills are totally unrelated to cost of providing a service, what insurers or government programs actually pay, or any metric of quality or outcome.

As Uwe Reinhart writes in the New York Times, this isn’t new, and the unveiling of these issues in the past decade has led to some specific responses in the media and policymakers. To address the specific issue of uninsured and underinsured patients getting overcharged, California passed AB774, the Hospital Fair Pricing Act, in 2006. Information about the new rights and options are available at

Just because it isn’t news doesn’t mean it isn’t newsworthy. Here’s Jon Stewart’s response on The Daily Show, bringing even more attention to the topic:

Here’s Ezra Klein and Sara Kliff hosting their inaugural Wonktalk segment at the Washington Post, explaining that Brill’s piece seemed to stop short of the obvious solutions, from rate setting to single-payer. Kliff made the point that these “absurd” prices do impact the uninsured, those who get out-of-network care, or who have co-insurance, and who are otherwise not fully covered.

We at Health Access have been working on these issues for a long time, so we certainly appreciate the new spotlight on chargemasters, and the overall problem of health care billing and charges in general.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.