New AHCJ chapter features discussion of costs, financial transparency

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Ron ShinkmanDylan H. Roby, Ph.D.

Ron ShinkmanDylan H. Roby, Ph.D.

Dylan H. Roby, Ph.D., spoke at the first event held by the Southern California chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists on April 24 at the Los Angeles Times. He discussed health care price and financial transparency, and whether it can control spending.

Roby, an assistant professor of health policy and management in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and director of the Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program within the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, focused on several issues during his presentation:

  • Prices paid by patients and consumers versus provider charges
  • Facility charges vs. professional fees
  • Negotiations and price setting by government payers
  • Different payment models (capitation vs. fee-for-service with discounting).

Roby also discussed California’s Fair Pricing Act, which curbs what uninsured patients can be charged if their income is 300 percent of the federal poverty level or less. He noted that few patients are aware of this law and how to take advantage of it.

Ron Shinkman, the chapter’s co-founder and editor of the trade publication Payers & Providers and the health care finance editor for Fierce Healthcare, also discussed health care price transparency and how journalism on the topic has shaped policy. He noted that Steven Brill’s 2013 Time magazine article “Bitter Pill” helped prompt the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release individual hospital billing data. He also noted that an investigative report by The Wall Street Journal on what individual physicians bill the Medicare program and subsequent litigation by the newspaper’s attorneys contributed to CMS’s decision in April to release specific physician billing information to the public.

About 15 journalists attended the event and shared in refreshments from legendary eatery Porto’s Bakery – including a sizable chocolate chip cookie surplus – as well as a lot of information imparted to local journalists on health care finance.

The new chapter met briefly after the presentations and agreed that meetings on a quarterly basis would be the best way to proceed. Expect the next event to take place in mid-summer.

Chad Terhune, the Los Angeles Times‘ health care business reporter, assisted with the event. Thanks also go to chapter co-founders Lisa Zamosky and Wendy Wolfson.

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