The largest hospital company in the country says it welcomes more transparency about what it charges for many procedures. Nashville-based HCA is also interested to see the prices charged by its competition.
Starting this year, the federal government required hospitals to publish their list prices, which virtually no one pays. So they weren't seen as particularly helpful. But a new rule posted this week will make hospitals disclose the discounted prices that insurers pay, seen as a way to truly make it possible to shop around for services like getting an MRI.
Hospital lobbying groups have slammed the new rule, saying it gives insurers an opportunity to band together and drive down prices unfairly. But HCA executives say the company wants to help the government implement the transparency initiave and offer feedback before the deadline in late September.
"We don't know exactly where we stand relative to others in the marketplace, and we think that will create some opportunities, maybe some challenges there," chief financial officer Bill Rutherford told analysts on a quarterly conference call. "But we think the HCA system will stand up well on a price transparency view."
In Nashville, HCA's facilities are branded as TriStar. Combined with its headquarters, the company employs more than 10,000 people in the city.
With more than 180 hospitals nationwide, chief executive Sam Hazen said HCA has already been trying to limit the variation between what different insurers pay for the same service.
"We think we are competitive in the marketplace, otherwise we would not be achieving contract renewals at the pace we are," Hazen said.
The company also reported lower than expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday, blaming a drop in spinal procedures and women's health services. Despite a steady increase in its stock price since the spring, shares dropped more than 9% on the news.