June 1, 2006 3:27PM

Medicare Prices to Be Posted Online

Here’s some important information for the next time you visit the hospital. After dictating prices for health care services for 20‐​some years, Medicare is finally going to let you see those prices. Today, the Bush administration took the first step toward posting the prices that Medicare pays providers. Today’s release includes county‐​by‐​county prices paid for 30‐​plus hospital procedures, including:

  • heart operations and implanting cardiac defibrillators
  • hip and knee replacements
  • kidney and urinary tract operations
  • gallbladder operations and back and neck operations
  • common non‐​surgical admissions

In a study released this week, I wrote that this step by the Bush administration

probably will not hurt, and it could even help. However, the administration’s efforts to force price disclosure should stop there. If patients demand price information, there will be no need to force providers to supply it: providers will publish it, or perish. But as long as patients have no interest in price information, forcing providers to supply it would be a useless exercise and a costly distraction.