The prices hospitals post online can be wildly different than what they tell patients over the phone

” The new study..compared the prices hospitals posted online (as required under new federal regulations) with the prices obtained in phone calls conducted by the team posing as potential patients.

They contacted 60 hospitals across the country, a mix of top-ranked facilities, hospitals that primarily serve low-income people, and the other hospitals in between. They asked about two procedures for which comparison shopping is more common: vaginal childbirth and a brain MRI.”

“It was rare for the advertised price on the web to be the same as the price quoted over the phone. Less than 20 percent of hospitals provided the same price through an online price estimator as they did when someone spoke to a member of the billing department. In many cases, the disparity was significant, with more than a 50 percent price difference depending on whether you checked on a website or called for a quote.
And in a handful of cases, the price more than doubled depending on how you asked. At two hospitals, MRIs were listed online at $2,000, but “patients” were given a price of more than $5,000 when they called. Five hospitals offered a price of $10,000 for vaginal childbirth over the phone, but the price posted online were twice that much.

There didn’t seem to be a clear pattern of which quotes were higher. Sometimes they were higher over the phone, sometimes higher on the website.

The researchers said they took pains to make sure they were getting apples-to-apples comparisons, going so far as to give specific billing codes during their scripted calls with hospital staff. It didn’t matter.”

“Research had already found prices for the same services vary wildly at different hospitals. The top-line findings of this new study reveal that it can be difficult to even determine what the price for a given service is at a given hospital. That is a problem both for the 10 percent of the US population that is uninsured as well as people enrolled in high-deductible health plans, which are becoming more common.”

“the researchers made one other note in their study: They found poor correlation between brain MRI and vaginal childbirth prices within an individual hospital. In other words, some facilities would have high MRI prices compared to others but low prices for delivering babies — with no discernible economic reason for that disparity. It’s chaos.”

Joe Biden’s Email Aliases Are a Potentially Serious Transparency Problem

“The New York Post first reported in 2021 that Biden used at least three pseudonyms—”Robin Ware,” “Robert L. Peters,” and “JRB Ware”—on emails that mixed family and government business. The aliases were reportedly discovered in emails found on Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop.
The Southeastern Legal Foundation, a legal nonprofit group, filed a FOIA request in June 2022 for all emails associated with the aliases. In its initial response to SLF’s FOIA request, NARA said it had identified roughly 5,400 records potentially responsive to its request. However, NARA has yet to turn over those records. On Monday, the SLF filed a FOIA lawsuit to compel production.

“All too often, public officials abuse their power by using it for their personal or political benefit. When they do, many seek to hide it,” SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann said in a press release. “The only way to preserve governmental integrity is for NARA to release Biden’s nearly 5,400 emails to SLF and thus the public. The American public deserves to know what is in them.””

“Whether or not those emails contain government business or evidence of impropriety that Republicans have been searching for, the use of multiple pseudonymous email addresses and aliases, at the very least, creates suspicion for FOIA requesters. How are watchdog groups and records requesters supposed to know the government is performing complete searches if the existence of alternate or private email addresses isn’t revealed?

However, despite criticisms from transparency groups, the practice has been fairly widespread for at least the past few administrations. Obama-era EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used the alias “Richard Windsor” and her private email address in messages with lobbyists. Former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch also used alias email addresses. Trump-Era EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had four government email addresses.

The Obama administration defended using alternate government email addresses as necessary for high-level political appointees since the flood of emails to their public inboxes made those accounts unreasonable to manage.

At a 2013 press conference, then-White House press secretary Jay Carney assured reporters that “this is a practice consistent with prior administrations of both parties, and, as the story itself made clear, any FOIA request or congressional inquiry includes a search in all of the email accounts used by any political appointee.””

Partisanship Is Muddling the Important Debate Over Supreme Court Ethics

“Yes, those publications have liberal biases. And, yes, some progressives are using the Thomas/Alito/Gorsuch reports to undermine the conservative majority’s legitimacy and push dangerous court expansion plans. But all of these nondisclosures, luxury trips, and gift-taking still seem sleazy.”

The Most Popular Police Reforms Can’t Stop the Next Tyre Nichols From Being Killed. Here’s What Might.

“Units like these don’t just suffer from a lack of transparency and use tactics likely to spawn violence. Their rhetoric attracts “police officers who enjoy being feared,” Balko notes, and it positions these officers as both elite and beyond the normal rules. There are all sorts of horror stories about similar units, such as Detroit’s STRESS unit (“Over a two-year period, the units killed at least 22 people, almost all of them Black”) or Los Angeles’ CRASH unit (“More than 70 officers were implicated in planting guns and drug evidence, selling narcotics themselves and shooting and beating people without provocation”).
Memphis has now disbanded the SCORPION squad.”

“This is far from the first time that police have drastically misrepresented the way things went down before surveillance footage or body camera videos showed that they weren’t telling the truth. To distill this to its essence: Police lie. They lie to protect themselves. They like to give their activities a more noble sheen. They lie to dehumanize those they arrest or aggress against. And yet members of the media often take cops at their word and move on.”

The Michael Flynn Unmasking Fight Is Another Chance for More Transparency About Secret Government Surveillance

“This “unmasking” is part of a very secretive process of deciding who gets to see the names of Americans on transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and raw intelligence. Thanks to an annual transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, we know that this happens a lot. According to the latest transparency report, the National Security Agency (NSA) unmasked the names of 10,012 U.S. citizens or residents in 2019 in response to requests from another agency.”

“Americans deserve more transparency on how this unmasking process works—and a better explanation of why all these people keep requesting unmasking and what happens to that information. This may well be a “routine” process, as so many officials insist, but that doesn’t mean that we as citizens should accept the status quo. People insisted the Page warrants were part of a routine process, too, and it turned out that the routine itself was broken.”