Imagine this: Your haircut was estimated to be $10 when you walked in, but that price goes up significantly later when you see the actual bill.

That’s the scene featured in a PSA released by nonprofit advocacy group Power to the Patients this week as it continues to raise awareness about hospitals and insurance companies that provide “price estimates” rather than price transparency.

The 30-second video, which will air in the Washington, D.C. metro area, seeks to “underscore the ridiculousness” of hidden prices in the healthcare industry.

“You know how we’ll drive profits?” a hardware store manager asks his employees in the ad. “We’ll show customers a low-estimated price and then charge them something much higher.”

“Like a hospital? Like an insurance company? Is that even legal?” the employees ask.

“This latest PSA attacks the ongoing and wholly unethical absurdity of hospitals and insurers rigging our entire healthcare system by concealing their prices in order to maximize profits for their insatiable greed at the enormous expense to every person, family and community across the country who rely on hospitals for their care,” Kevin Morra, co-founder of Power to the Patients, said in a press release.

Morra emphasized that more than 100 million Americans are facing medical debt.

Indeed, there are stark price differences for the same medical procedure across hospitals — and even sometimes at the same hospital, according to a recent report conducted by nonprofit Patient Rights Advocate. 

Prices varied up to 10.7 times for the same procedure depending on insurance plans, even at the same hospital, the report found. When compared among different hospitals, prices varied up by 31 times depending on insurance.

This hasn’t been for a lack of regulatory action on healthcare price transparency.

In 2021, the Biden administration rolled out the Hospital Price Transparency Rule, which requires hospitals to share the cost of procedures to patients before they receive them. Under the law, hospitals must provide “clear, accessible” pricing information online, in a consumer-friendly format.

However, according to a July 2023 report from Patient Rights Advocate, only about 36% of 2,000 hospitals studied were fully compliant with the rules.

Price transparency has continued to be a major topic in Congress over the past year, with various bipartisan bills introduced targeting both the pharma industry and pharmacy benefit managers and their role in high drug costs.

Still, Morra called on lawmakers to enact stronger transparency legislation, noting that patients are desperate for lawmakers to act on behalf of the people they are in office to represent.

This marks yet another public effort by Power to the Patients to draw attention to the issue of healthcare price transparency.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit featured hip hop stars Wyclef Jean and Fat Joe, alongside country musician Jelly Roll, to advocate for healthcare affordability. 

In September 2023, Fat Joe joined several other hip hop legends including Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, Method Man and French Montana to press for transparency in healthcare.

“We need actual prices in healthcare,” that video stated. “Not averages, not estimates. We need real prices… We demand prices and transparency in healthcare.”