Arizona creates hospital price comparison website

Arizona's Department of Health Services unveiled a website last week that provides both quality and pricing data for the state's hospitals.

The Arizona Hospital Compare website has price and quality information from 2011 and 2012, based on charges and other data submitted to the federal government. And prices are all over the map, according to an analysis by the Arizona Daily Sun. For example, median charges for a joint replacement surgery range from less than $33,000 at Tuscon Medical Center to nearly $136,000 at Payson Medical Center.

Arizona joins Massachusetts, which launched the MyHealthCare Options site in February, and South Carolina, which released its website in January. Texas Price Point also provides hospital data but it is operated by the Texas Hospital Association rather than a government agency.

The movement toward price transparency has been gradual but steady, with experts saying it could save the sector $100 billion over the next decade. However, some observers raised doubts that a large number of consumers use price transparency data for shopping for healthcare services.

The website also provides individual hospital's costs and charges. Arizona Health Director Will Humble suggested to the Daily Star that patients could use the website as a tool to negotiate prices upfront, much like consumers currently purchase automobiles.

In addition to the price data, Arizona also made specific quality data available, including the percentage of vaginal births after a prior C-section, and the percentage of C-sections performed at each hospital. Humble said consumers can use such data to help preplan elective services, such as maternity care.

To learn more:
- read the Arizona Star article
- check out the website