I Owe WHAT For That Appendectomy?

So how much should it cost to go to the hospital?  We've all heard the horror stories.  People without healthcare wind up being charged excessively more than those with insurance (because hospitals give big deductions to insurance companies because of volume).  Even worse, sometimes one hospital can charge you $28,000 for what treatment at another would be less than half of that.

According to Sarah Kliff and Dan Keating at The Washington Post, the federal government today will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common procedures.  Hospitals in the past kept this secret, because of competition.

Just as you'd expect, the numbers reveal a wide disparity in prices.  The numbers reveal a tremendous, unexplained variation in cost of services, Kliff and Keating report.   For example, in the District of Columbia, "George Washington University’s average bill for a patient on a ventilator was $115,000, while Providence Hospital’s average charge for the same service was just under $53,000. For a lower joint replacement, George Washington University charged almost $69,000 compared with Sibley Memorial Hospital’s average of just under $30,000."

But is this all just funny money?

“It’s true that Medicare and a lot of private insurers never pay the full charge,”  Renee Hsia, an assistant professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School whose research focuses on price variation, told Kliff and Keating. “But you have a lot of private insurance companies where the consumer pays a portion of the charge. For uninsured patients, they face the full bill. In that sense, the price matters.”

So what do you do if you need services from one of these higher-priced (or any) hospitals and you have no insurance? Your best bet is to try to work something out with the invoicing department and see if you can have your charges reduced, or at the worst, have them broken up into monthly installments.  Though we have insurance, we have a high deductible and we've been forced to do this.  Yes, it keeps the collection companies away from our door, but you are paying it off forever!



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