In addition to patients without insurance, hospitals also charged international visitors and patients with health plans through insurers that haven't negotiated hospital discounts approximately two and a half times the price offered to health insurers with discounts, the report estimates. These inflated bills base their prices on a hospital's chargemaster file, an undiscounted master list of the prices hospitals set for services.
Hospitals readily admit that chargemaster prices are inflated. That's because they are the starting point for negotiating the discounts given to private insurance plans in return for the volume of patients they send to a hospital. Those bloated chargemaster prices, however, are the numbers used to bill uninsured patients - many of whom will struggle to pay those bills and will get nasty collection letters if they don't.