Hospitals Now Posting Prices, but Deciphering Them is Causing Headaches

Collection agencies that work in the healthcare field may want to take note of a new requirement from the federal government that requires healthcare facilities to post the prices for all of their services online, theoretically improving the transparency of the quagmire that is healthcare pricing.

But a published report notes that the posted prices are inflated and understanding what procedures are actually being listed can be impossible to decode for an average patient.

In looking at the prices for a hospital here in New Jersey, it can be easy to see how confused patients might be when trying to figure out how much a procedure is going to cost. For example, you might know what KIDNEY & URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS W/O MCC MS is, but I don’t. Does that mean knowing the average cost is $65,617 is helpful or not?

Yes, this is a step in the right direction and that is important. But as the report indicated, the way that hospitals are listing their prices is “as if the car dealers were disclosing the price for each auto part, without revealing the charge for the vehicle as a whole.”

One key ingredient that is missing from helping decipher the pricing puzzles is a lack of standardization from hospital to hospital regarding how the procedures are listed and coded.

The pricing information also does not take into account any insurance coverage that an individual might have and the discounts that may be applied based on agreements between insurance companies and different hospital facilities. Said one healthcare executive, according to the Times:

“For patients to know up front how much their care will cost, that’s incredibly valuable,” said Brenda L. Reetz, the chief executive of Greene County General Hospital in rural southwest Indiana. “We’ve posted our prices, as required. But I really don’t think the information is what the consumer is actually wanting to see.”

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