Last fall, I looked into the lack of transparency in pricing for surgeries at local hospitals. Patients are charged based on their insurance, as hospitals and insurers negotiate prices in advance. It can be difficult for patients to comparison shop.
The federal government is pushing for more transparency. This week, it posted online what each hospital bills Medicare for procedures. It found dramatic differences in prices. The New York Times reports:
In Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000.
In one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000.
Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely.
“There’s very little transparency out there about what doctors and hospitals are charging for services,” Mr. (Robert) Zirkelbach (a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans) said. “Much of the public policy focus has been on health insurance premiums and has largely ignored what hospitals and doctors are charging.”
The federal data has good news for Rochester hospitals. All bill Medicare less than the U.S. average. (Use this New York Times interactive tool.) They charge closer to what Medicare reimburses.
There were still disparities, some of them significant, in pricing among Rochester hospitals. Unity charges $22,595 for a major joint replacement. Strong charges $23,475. Rochester General charges $28,345.
The New York Times quoted experts who said hospitals have been raising prices to make up the difference and those without insurance, people who can least afford it, are the ones paying the highest prices.
Links of the Day:
– Average airfare Upstate: Albany: $411 Syracuse: $405 Rochester: $338 Buffalo: $313
– A Monroe High School custodian does students’ laundry – and much more.
– Xerox is closing a call center in Oregon. Call centers are bad economic development.
– Congress has hindered the investigation into the Boston bombing because it does not require better data on guns.