In 2004, the rates charged to many uninsured and other "self-pay" patients for hospital services were often 2.5 times what most health insurers actually paid and more than three times the hospital's Medicare-allowable costs. The gaps between rates charged to self-pay patients and those charged to other payers are much wider than they were in the mid-1980s, and they make it increasingly more difficult for some patients, especially the uninsured, to pay their hospital bills. This has triggered lawsuits and some recent government efforts involving price transparency. Three specific policy options that could lower the markups are a voluntary effort by hospitals, litigation, and legislation.
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