NY introduces hospital price database

New York State's new online database of what hospitals charge for specific procedures shows that their practices are all over the map, Kaiser Health News reported.

Healthcare services, such as a routine birth, can vary in price by more than 100 percent from facilities, such as Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, according to the database.

One healthcare industry observer told Kaiser Health News that the charges hospitals impose bear little resemblance to a typical economic transaction.

"To a large extent in the hospital field, we take our charges in accord with what we think we're going to be paid, not in any relationship to the cost of goods sold or the combination of wages and materials, or anything else that would go into a genuine cost measurement," said Fred Hyde, M.D., of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

As a result, other policy experts suggest that the database is probably not the best source for consumers to make an informed decision on the cost of their medical care, or to associate it with outcomes or other quality measures, according to the article.

"Countless studies have looked at the relationship between cost and quality. And the relationship just isn't there," Suzanne Delbanco of the Catalyst for Payment Reform told Kaiser Health News.

Price transparency efforts remain in their infancy, with most state-based efforts in the form of listing hospital prices or chargemasters. Massachusetts is perhaps the only state implementing a holistic plan intended for consumers to obtain accurate pricing and costs for their healthcare services.

Instead, the article suggested that the best bet for consumers is to contact the hospital where they plan to seek care and their insurers to determine what their actual out-of-pocket costs will be, although it also concluded that "in practice that can be difficult, if not impossible."

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the New York hospital price database

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