Hospital prices show wild variations

  • Article by: Jackie Crosby , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2013 - 10:03 AM

National study of 3,300 hospitals shows that what you pay for health care depends on where you’re treated.

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jathu001May. 9, 13 5:07 AM

I wish I could tell you that the new so-called "transparency" systems of cost information really help. But like everything in health care, it is a crock. We have family healthy insurance through my employer which we still pay up the nose for--about $1,100 per month. My husband recently had a colonoscopy which is a procedure being pushed in the media lately as a really good idea in preventing colon cancer. Most insurance covers this procedure IF no polyps are found and it remains in the "routine screening" mode. But if any polyps are found and removed, it is coded into the "diagnostic" mode and suddenly--even with most insurances--you are paying out of pocket deductibles/copays, etc. to the tune of $1,200-2,000. With this in mind, I called around to try to find what it would cost at three different facilities, if the procedure went into the diagnostic coding mode. But you quickly learn that part of the racket is how each facility presents their information in a way that it is impossible to compare "apples to apples"--even between the same organization but at two different sites under that organization. It was ridiculous. So eventually you just throw up your hands and go with your best guess. I'm glad we're trying the Health Reform Act and remain open-minded. But another part of me can't wait until it all collapses and we move on to socialized medicine. The cost-containment and transparency in are current system is never going to happen--because it is profit-driven no matter what anyone says. I'm not convinced that the HRA will help us reach the goal of true market competition leading to cost containment. The twist that won't change is the profit of insurance companies.

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rangesonMay. 9, 13 5:43 AM

As a parent of a child with a "hidden" disability...i.e. she "looks normal"....I have one more gripe to add. She frequently needs to hit the clinic/emergency room for what she KNOWS is wrong, and yet if it's after hours and her regular specialist is not available, the doctor on call almost always refuses to listen to her and check her chart for her own doctor's notes, thereby wasting their time, and most importantly OUR money. One visit to an urgent care, NOT the ER, just cost us over $600, because the doctor refused to listen to her and ran a bunch of tests. Had she left the hospital without the meds she KNEW she needed, she would have ended up very, very ill, so she ended up sitting through needless lab work and exams, all to satisfy a doctor who wouldn't listen. Health care in the U.S. is insanely inefficient.

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stevejiMay. 9, 13 7:11 AM

I would not expect all hospitals to have the same price. They have different overhead costs, different physicians. It is not like you are buying a pound of copper and most places are close to the same price. I have had the misfortune of needing a few major surgeries in the last several years. I have also had the good fortune of being at Fairview Southdale for most of them. No offense to any other hospital, but the way people are treated at Fairview Southdale makes it worth whatever the cost is. Every single person from the volunteers up to the nurses, Doctors. Admin staff and management was and is extremely nice and caring. Not only are they nice and caring, they are top notch health care proffesionals as well.

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pitythefoolsMay. 9, 13 7:18 AM

This is a surprise, given that we are the only industrialized nation that uses a profit-driven health care system? The purpose of the health care industry in this Country is to MAKE MONEY. Never mind that we have the most expensive health care system with the worst outcomes of any industrialized nation on earth.

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raleighmamaMay. 9, 1310:59 AM

I had surgery a few years ago. The pre-op room was cold so they covered me with a warm blanket. On my itemized bill the cost to use that warmed blanket was $71.00, billed to my insurance company. The cost for one aspirin? 50 cents. 7 days in the hospital? $23,000. Insanity.

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mrzifelMay. 9, 1312:28 PM

All this information has been known for 25 years. The system will never fix itself. Hospitals are spending tons of money training the staff in customer relations. My question is what's more important; outcomes and infection rates or being treated with kindness and respect. The later is pretty easy to figure out. Try finding the answers to the former. It is estimated 100K people die each year from preventable accidents in hospitals. The number hasn't changed in 12 years. I'd rather live and be treated rudely.

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forman123May. 9, 13 1:45 PM

How is it that the allina system can justify charging twice what other hospitals charge? Shouldn't it be against the law to do this? Its like they are running some kind of racket.

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pete1777May. 9, 13 5:41 PM

I appreciate how the hospitals are being compared using a measure that is being referred to as "relatively meaningless" in the article, and people are up in arms. The insurance company always pays less than the charges, heck - here in MN we have laws that the people without any insurance pay less than charges. Medicare (the publisher of this data) doesn't even pay based on charges. How meaningless is this article?

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