Cost-shifting, the practice by hospitals of raising their prices to make up for reimbursement shortfalls from payers that do not pay full charges, is an important and controversial issue. Concerns about cost-shifting, particularly its effects on payment equity and cost escalation, have led many insurers, business groups, and legislators to advocate rate-setting regulation for hospitals. This article seeks to clarify the definition of cost-shifting, and quantifies its magnitude in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We believe that cost-shifting is the consequential result of the failure of both public and private payers to structure payment policies that reward cost-effective hospitals, and we outline a market-oriented alternative to rate-setting to address the discount dilemma caused by cost-shifting.

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