John O’Connor

We are reading and hearing much these days about how skilled care operators need to adapt for future success.

Align with healthcare systems, some experts say. Keep residents out of hospitals, others caution. Find a specialized service and be the best in the neighborhood at it, still others advise.

Will these and other strategies spell the difference between success and failure? Who knows?

But if what’s being done to hospitals right now is any indication, there might be another differentiator coming your way: what you charge for specific eldercare services.

Sounds crazy, right? Tell that to hospitals.

Under a federal rule announced last week, hospitals will be required to disclose what they charge for 300 services, including hip replacements, lab tests and outpatient visits.

“President Trump has promised American patients ‘A+’ healthcare transparency, but right now our system probably deserves an F on transparency. President Trump is going to change that, with what will be revolutionary changes for our healthcare system,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in an official announcement.

Azar added that the new posting requirements “may be a more significant change to American healthcare markets than any other single thing we’ve done, by shining light on the costs of our shadowy system and finally putting the American patient in control.”

Under the new rules, hospital pricing information will need to be made public in a machine-readable format online.

The nation’s 6,000 or so hospitals will have to comply with the new requirements by January 1, 2021, or face up to $300 in daily financial penalties.

There is a saying that goes something like: If you want to see what will happen to nursing homes in a few years, look at what’s happening to hospitals today. Should that adage hold here, it might just be a matter of time until your facility is posting its charges for anyone and everyone to see.

Will you like being required to post prices? Probably not. But keep in mind that hospitals fought this hammer and tong — and lost. It is generally agreed they have a much stronger lobbying arm than LTC does. So it may just be a matter of when, not if, a similar requirement will be coming to long-term care.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.