With apologies to Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being a hospital.

The obvious challenges exist. Insufficient payments, physician relations, staffing turnover and payer negotiations.

Now, major new threats have emerged that are not operational or financial in nature but are the direct result of hospitals’ reluctance to engage in forthright communications about complex issues.

Here’s one such challenge. The Texas Standard last month ran a lengthy story on Texas hospitals’ leading the nation. But not on positive metrics like lifesaving surgeries performed, lives saved, or research investment. Rather, leading the nation on price markups. That story got picked up by a number of other media outlets and organizations, including this one that drew the conclusion and eye-watering headline, “Hospital price gouging shows it’s time for physicians to take back their profession.”

Price gouging. Wow. That’s a loaded term typically reserved for opportunistic ne’er-do-wells who capitalize on human tragedy after devastating events, such as hurricanes, wars or terror attacks. Or to describe big Pharma.

How did we get to this moment in time where hospitals are the enemy of the people?

The answer is hospitals have failed to explain the economic forces and business model of health care. Rather than committing to transparency and open communications, hospitals for too long have hidden behind the fact that health care is complicated. It sure is, but if hospitals don’t proactively explain their side of the story, with facts, with clarity and with frequency to the media, to their own employees, to lawmakers, to businesses, to physicians, someone else will.

And, the results will be the permanent label of price gouger, and even more problematic, bad policy and mandates that cause more harm than good.

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