Hospitals increasingly posting prices, discounts online

To manage a growing uninsured population and out-of-pocket costs, hospitals in Michigan are posting their prices online and offering big discounts, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Three hospital systems--Henry Ford Health System, Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids--publicly post average prices for common tests and procedure like X-rays. They also offer financial counseling and give big discounts to uninsured and underinsured patients.

Oakwood has posted procedure prices since 2005, and now offers as much as a 75 percent discount to patients paying cash for certain imaging tests, as well as a 25 percent discount to uninsured people on other hospital bills.

"It's a fundamental shift" in how healthcare prices are set and publicized, Henry Ford's chief revenue officer, Stephen Hathaway, told the newspaper. The Detroit-based health system attracts 2,000 visitors a day to its pricing site.

But these three providers will not be alone. Federal health reform will require all U.S. hospitals to post costs for their most common services by 2014, which many believe will get rid of cost disparity.

"If your prices are out of whack, everyone will know it," said Joseph Fifer, VP of finance for Spectrum Health, which has posted prices online for nearly four years, averaging about 1,000 visitors a month seeking price information, notes the Free Press.

Health insurers also have joined the public price movement. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Health Alliance Plan, Priority Health and Aetna, among others, offer their own enhanced pricing websites.

For more:
- read the Detroit Free Press article