WASHINGTON POST: Hospitals Will Tell You the Cost of Parking but Not of Health Care, 2/10

February 10, 2014

Nearly all hospitals will give you the price of parking. Barely any will give you the price of health care.

A recent study in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal expressed concern, as researchers in Philadelphia aimed to identify whether or not hospitals would provide clear and honest costs for simple medical procedures. As part of the study, researchers called 20 local hospitals, and communicated to the operator that they were uninsured individuals planning to personally pay for a test. During the call, researchers inquired about costs for a simple electrocardiogram, a safe test that would not vary by patient, nor would require multiple doctors. In their findings, only three hospitals provided an amount for the procedure, with amounts varying drastically from $137 to a shocking $1200. Interestingly, when researchers inquired about prices for parking, nineteen of the twenty hospitals’ operators were quick and willing to answer and provide prices to the caller. This raises awareness to the suggestion that hospitals will surely provide costs, yet only at their convenience. The findings from this study present the reality that hospital costs are still extremely opaque to patients, even for tests that are less complex and despite inquiries being made about the costs. In addition, for those that are insured, it is still known that transparency of price increases despite companies’ apparent concern, is still absent for individuals. Unclear, inconsistent pricing simply adds to the patient being blindsided by astronomical hospital costs, whether they are insured or not, and contributes to increased barriers in health care.


Article provided by the Washington Post Blog with contributor Sarah Kliff. 3 Dec. 2013

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