Compare hospital charges
Katie Carpenter | 07.18.13
The cost of healthcare is on the rise and has increased beyond the average rate of inflation.
There are many theories why, but one of the questions that often go unanswered is why does healthcare cost what it does, especially at hospitals?
In his recent TIME Magazine article titled "Bitter Pill: How outrageous pricing and egregious profits are destroying our health care," journalist Steven Brill explores the complex pricing schemes in health care today and how it’s creating an enormous tax burden while bankrupting households at the same time.
Although Brill says that the Affordable Care Act may change some of the rules about who pays for what in health care, a basic problem remains: the cost. Listen to a conversation between Brill and Diane Rehm on the topic here.
In order to reduce costs, consumers are being encouraged to shop for the best prices. Traditionally, that hasn't been an easy task, as charges were competitive secrets in the industry. But, for the first time ever, the government has released what hospitals charge for 100 common inpatient procedures. And, the data reveals huge disparities in hospital billing.
The Washington Post created a database of over 3,300 hospitals nationwide to help patients compare what hospitals in their own town charge for different procedures and how much they are reimbursed by Medicare.
The federal government said the goal of posting these charges is to increase price transparency, which will increase public awareness and understanding of hospital charges. And, this is a critical step toward reducing prices while increasing quality of care.
For example, the average bill for treatment of chest pain that is not caused by heart disease is $12,585 at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. At the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, the bill for the same procedure is $25,557. Insurance pays a lot less than those figures though -- $4,901 at Hershey and $5,102 at Geisinger. That's just one example but there are many more.
Even with more information becoming available, would-be patients may still be confused by the wide disparity in prices.
Listen to this episode of Radio Smart Talk for a closer look at why hospital costs are what they are.
Program guests include Martin Ciccocioppo of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and Joe Martin of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.
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