Texas Medicaid rates vary wildly

Texas' laissez-fair rules about hospital Medicaid rates has led to stark price differences in various parts of the state, reports the Texas Tribune.

Fairly uniform procedures--such as the delivery of an infant--costs twice as much at St. Luke's Woodlands Hospital than it does at Christus St. Catherine Hospital in Katy, which is only 50 miles distant. Two hospitals on the Texas border in Harlingen and Laredo have a $5,500 difference in how much they charge Medicaid for a coronary bypass procedure. Rates can even vary between hospitals in the same healthcare system.

The sharp disparities are linked to rules that allow each hospital to essentially set its own Medicaid rates. Those rates are separate from a variety of allowances hospitals are able to claim if they have higher operating expenses as a pediatric or teaching facility.

The rate differences have caught the eye of the Texas Legislature, which is now mulling a uniform Medicaid rate for hospitals. A flat rate could save as much as $74 million over the next two years, and up to $2.8 billion if Texas settles on the lowest rate possible and foregoes allowances.

For more:
- read the Texas Tribune story