SC unveils hospital price website

South Carolina has unveiled a website that provides price data for 60 of the state's hospitals, the Associated Press reported.

The site, www.schealthdata.org, managed by South Carolina's Medicaid agency, includes financial data going back five years for each hospital, according to the AP. It also provides the amount the Medicaid program paid the organizations to care for uninsured patients. The website also features an online tool for comparing hospitals by group or geography.

"This is an important step in the ongoing conversation about how we deliver and pay for care in our state and across the country, and how we can purchase the most health at the least cost," said Tony Keck, director of South Carolina's Medicaid agency, in the article.

The price data gleaned so far already helped dictate some state financial policies, Keck told the publication Government Technology. For example, he said the state changed the level of reimbursement for some procedures performed at rural facilities.

The site was developed in collaboration with the South Carolina Hospital Association. The next stage in the site's expansion is to show what hospitals charge by payer. It will include payment data from commercial and government payers. Officials expect to launch that phase sometime during the spring.

South Carolina is one of the few states where some price information for hospitals is presented in an orderly manner. Currently, most hospitals provide little specific information about prices and costs to patients before they undergo care. And recent investigative journalism suggests that hospitals more or less disregard their chargemasters unless they are dealing with uninsured patients. In those circumstances, they usually charge the full price for the care delivered.

According to the AP, Keck believes that demand for such data and price transparency will grow as insurers continue to shift more costs to consumers.

"An increasing number of people are being asked to pay more and more of their healthcare bill, but they don't have the information to do it now," Keck said.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- here's the Government Technology article

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