Jackson Health System of Miami, comprised of five hospitals and a medical center, signed contracts with medical device vendors that prohibits the system from revealing device prices.
Vendors claim they are “trade secrets” which make them exempt from public record, naturally frustrating taxpayers who are unable to determine if their money is being spent efficiently. As stated by the Herald:
“Miami-Dade taxpayers know how much they pay for street lights, school buses and sidewalks, but they don’t know how much they pay for pacemakers and defibrillators purchased by their public hospitals in Jackson Health System.”
Jackson Health, too, is expressing frustration with the “trade secrets” clause because vendors do not have to reveal what other hospitals pay for prices. Without that knowledge, Jackson Health is unable to determine if they are getting competitive prices. As Curtis Rooney, president of the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association explain:
“That’s like a consumer going to buy a flat-screen TV and not knowing what others are paying for the same brand. We call them gag clauses… People can’t find out the best price.”
Though the “trade secrets” excuse is used often in the health industry according to Jackson Health, the secrecy increases health care costs for everyone. Yet, vendors continue to support the price secrecy stating it is necessary so that they may offer lower prices to certain hospitals without having to give discounts to everyone.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa best describes the issue with medical device secrecy stating:
“Without any available information … on fair prices for medical devices… hospitals are at the mercy of medical device makers who have the upper hand. Some hospitals are now paying a lot more than others for the same medical device. That means healthcare dollars aren’t being spent wisely. Taxpayers need confidence that they’re getting the most bang for their buck.”