As part of the effort from the Obama administration to make the health care system more affordable and dependable, Health and Humans Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, described a three-part initiative yesterday that aids consumers with information on what hospitals charge for which procedures.
The data that was released showed notable variation across communities and the country in what hospitals charge for general inpatient procedures and services. The HHS took action by giving $87 million to states to improve their rate review efforts and enhance the accessibility of health care pricing.
Secretary Sebelius said:
"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. This data and new data centers will help fill that gap."
Significant Variation Seen Around the U.S.The data showed that variations can exist between hospitals that are only a few miles from each other. For example the report outlines three suburban Denver hospitals that alternately charged $97.214, $46,457, and $28,237 to care for a respiratory infection with complications.
The report also detailed the prices for the top 100 most commonly billed in-patient services at hospitals, like pacemaker implants which make up 60% of Medicare billings.
The same was seen in New York City, At Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for the treatment of hip or pelvic fractures - the cost was $38,588. At Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, the price for the same procedure was $13,137; approximately two-thirds less.
In order to make this data available and useful to consumers, HHS is also providing money to data centers to gather, examine, and publish health pricing and medical claims reimbursement data. The goal of the centers is to help consumers clearly understand the comparative price of procedures.
Consumers as well as businesses can use this data to make the best decisions and reward affordable provision of care.
In 2011, the HHS released a similar report suggesting that most underinsured Americans are unable to pay their hospital bills. On average, they were only able to pay 12% of their hospital stays.
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald