Lack of transparency in hospital bills makes comparison shopping difficult
Aug 22, 2014, UPDATED: Sep 23, 2014
John George, Senior Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal
Here’s a lesson in the complex and opaque world of health-care economics. Data released this summer by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) shows the average charge for treating a Philadelphia-area Medicare recipient for chest pain in 2012 was anywhere from $13,361.93 to $77,973.86, depending on where the patient went for care.
…Not everyone agrees hospital charges are meaningless.
“I hear hospitals say they don’t matter, that they are a work of fiction, but you can’t have it both ways,” said Neil Goldfarb, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health. “If they are unhappy with people using charge data to make comparisons, they should be more transparent about their prices.”
Goldfarb said the CMS charge data is not meaningless for the coalition and its members as it provides information, such as how many patients each hospital is treating for a certain diagnosis and the “relative magnitude” of expenses at competing hospitals. “If you see a charge that is twice as high at one hospital compared to another hospital, it’s a good indicator that the first hospital is going to be a more expensive place to receive care,” he said. “It helps identify places where we should ask questions.”
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