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Patients get access to hospital pricing information


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced an initiative to give consumers information about what hospitals charge.

“Currently, consumers don’t know what a hospital is charging them or their insurance company for a given procedure, like a knee replacement, or how much of a price difference there is at different hospitals, even within the same city,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “This data and new data centers will help fill that gap.”

The data posted on the Centers for Medicare and Medcaid Services’ website include information comparing the charges for services that may be provided during the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays. Hospitals determine what they will charge for items and services provided to patients.

Variations can be significant. For example, average inpatient charges for services a hospital may provide in connection with a joint replacement range from a low of $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Okla., to a high of $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, Calif.

Even within the same geographic area, hospital charges for similar services can vary significantly. For example, average inpatient hospital charges for services that may be provided to treat heart failure in Denver range from a low of $21,000 to a high of $46,000, and in Jackson, Miss., from a low of $9,000 to a high of $51,000.

To make these data useful to consumers, HHS also is providing funding to data centers to collect, analyze and publish health pricing and medical claims reimbursement data. This work helps consumers better understand the comparative price of procedures in a given region or for a specific health insurer or service setting.

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