Hospitals in California in recent years have charged the uninsured just as much or more than Medicare for treatment, according to a new report.
The report, by researchers at RAND Corp. and the University of Southern California and published in Health Affairs, indicates that, on average, hospitals in the state collected a higher percentage of their list prices, known as chargemasters, from the uninsured than those covered by Medicare. Private insurers and the government typically negotiate with hospitals to pay below list price.
The report used state data from 2001 to 2005. Because Medicare prices went up 13% in that same period, that means that prices for the uninsured are going up, too, said Glenn Melnick, lead author of the study.
A 2006 state law prohibits hospitals from charging low- and middle-income patients more than the highest Medicare rates. The state also now posts hospital charity-care prices on a Web site that launched last month, and hospitals must make chargemasters of the most common procedures available to the public. -- by Rebecca Vesely