The Power Of Good Journalism

Steve Brill’s piece on healthcare costs in America is getting results:

Acting on the suggestion of her top data crunchers at the department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Sebelius will release a data file that shows the list — or “chargemaster” — prices by all hospitals across the U.S. for the 100 most common inpatient treatment services in 2011. It then compares those prices with what Medicare actually paid hospitals for the same treatments — which was typically a fraction of the chargemaster prices. CMS public-affairs director Brian Cook told me that Sebelius’ action today comes in part in response to TIME’s special report on health-care-pricing practices in the March 4 issue, “Bitter Pill.”

Brill’s advice on the next steps the administration should take:

The feds need to publish chargemaster and Medicare pricing for the most frequent outpatient procedures and diagnostic tests at clinics — two huge profit venues in the medical world. This will be harder — the government doesn’t collect that data as comprehensively — but those outpatient centers and clinics provide a huge portion of American medical care.

But an even bigger step in transparency would be collecting data that Medicare doesn’t have: exactly what insurance companies pay to the various hospitals, testing clinics and other providers for various treatments and services. After all, as the hospitals themselves concede in downplaying their chargemasters, these insurance prices are the ones that affect most patients. But it’s also where there is close to zero transparency.

Previous Dish on Brill’s piece herehere and here. His recent Ask Anything series here.