Cost-shifting exposes more differentials in hospital prices

The continuing trend of shifting healthcare costs to patients exposes more price variations among hospitals for identical procedures, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Patients, now face higher insurance deductibles and co-payments, are more aware of the cost variations among hospitals, according to the Courier-Journal.

In one example, Jewish Hospital Medical Center billed Crystal McGrew more than triple the costs than Kosair Children's Hospital had the year prior to insert tubes in her son's ears. McGrew's out-of-pocket costs were more than five times higher with Jewish than Kosair, totaling $1,275 with the former hospital.

It doesn't seem logical," McGrew told the Courier-Journal. "I honestly think it's out of control...you're talking about an eight-minute procedure." In the future, she decided she would ask for prices in advance before blindly taking a referral from her son's pediatrician.

Hospitals are under increasing pressure to provide price transparency, following reports that many of them dismiss their chargemaster prices for the sake of economic convenience. Moreover, a variety of studies show that hospital prices are all over the map. Partly in response to this pressure, agencies such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, now post prices by hospital for the most widely utilized procedures, and some states, such as South Carolina, post specific prices.

The growing consumer awareness about vast differences in hospital prices is only going to receive more attention, according to the newspaper.

"There is going to be more of a retail environment in healthcare," Lynn Tanner, vice president of payer strategy and operations for hospital operator KentuckyOne Health, told the Courier-Journal. Tanner acknowledged that bills for identical care vary between hospitals, but also within the same healthcare system. For example, some of KentuckyOne's 15 hospitals bill for operating room services by the minute, but others bill for 30-minute pockets of time. Tanner said that KentuckyOne is trying to resolve such discrepancies.

To learn more:
- read the Louisville Courier-Journal article

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