It may sound strange but many hospitals won't tell you in advance the
charges for a procedure, and they may add extra services at their whim which
obviously you pay for and to top it all if you develop some complications or
infection due to their oversight, you will be left holding the bill.
According to a study published in the Journal of The
American Medical Association in February, a researcher gathered prices and
information from 122 hospitals around the country as her healthy 62 year old
grandmother needed a hip replacement.
!9 hospitals could not give her any price information, and 27 hospitals
gave her either the physician's price or the hospital price but not a combined
price. From 57 hospitals she was able to get both the prices but only after
calling separately for each. 19 hospitals gave her the combined information.
There was a huge difference in the combined costs - this made her
research worthwhile. There was a tenfold difference, from $11,100 to $125,798
and the difference was among the top ten hospitals. Many studies have found
that this price difference is found not just in major surgeries, but also for
tests like an MRI can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several
thousand. For the uninsured this can be a huge financial burden, and even those
insured under high-deductible health plans will pay 100% for many tests and
Moreover, with the ongoing battle between UPMC and Highmark,
Pittsburgher's will have to pay more if the doctor or hospital of their choice
is "Out of network" in their health insurance plan.
Citizens, business leaders and public officials should demand best
quality health care at affordable prices.
Hospitals should put up procedure rates on their websites, which should
include all costs - physician services and facility charges. For a simple
procedure like a colonoscopy, the charges can vary due to the type of
anesthesia used and where the procedure is done.
Hospitals should provide detailed statistics on their quality of care.
Regrettably the quality of hospital care in the Pittsburgh region has dropped
and most hospitals in Pittsburgh are going to be financially penalized for poor
quality care or high % of readmissions by Medicare.
Hospitals should offer a warranty for preventable complications.
Geisinger Health System in Central Pennsylvania offers a warranty on services
like a heart bypass surgery to maternity care. If you have a related problem or
complication related to your original procedure, Geisinger does not charge
anything and according to studies they deliver even higher quality care than
earlier. Their cost has come down due to lesser complications and fewer
readmissions. None of the hospitals in Pittsburgh offers any such warranty.
There should be a consumer friendly cost comparison website. There are
some websites in Wisconsin and New Hampshire, though nothing in Pittsburgh till
date. The governor and General Assembly need to provide the funding and the
mandate to the Care Cost Containment Council to publish time and detailed
reports on information regarding the prices and the quality of health care in
Hannah Punitha (IRDA
Licence Number: 2710062)
Harold D. Miller, 3rd