How to Know if Your Hospital is Charging Too Much

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Posted on 03/13/2014

As anyone who has spent time in a hospital can tell you, it's not run like your local Target store. Pick up a bottle of shampoo at one Target location and you can expect to pay pretty much the same for that bottle of shampoo at any other Target store. And the price is clearly marked. But as the Huffington Post reported, a patient receiving treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Bayonne Hospital Center in New Jersey will walk out with a bill totaling nearly $100,000. That same treatment is just $7,044 at a hospital 30 miles away in New York. If you want to make sure you're not getting stuck with an inflated healthcare bill, these tips may help you know if your hospital is charging too much.

Search CMS.gov
Last year the government released information detailing what the vast majority of US hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures billed to Medicare. The information is based on claims from 2011, but includes more than 3,000 hospitals in 300 cities across the country.


Research State-Specific Data
Eleven states, including Colorado, are taking health care costs into their own hands. Visit cohealthdata.org to find data compiled from private and public health insurance payers in Colorado. The goal is to provide the most comprehensive picture of health care costs and services in the state. Supporters say the more information is made available, the more people will steer away from over-priced health care options.


Visit Opscost.com
A nationwide search option is Opscost.com. It's a free database that helps patients shop around at over 3,300 hospitals. Simply put in your location, identify a procedure and see immediately what area hospitals have charged based on government data and user reported bills.


Beware of Observation Status
Many patients don't realize that the status they're categorized under will drastically change their hospital bill. Patients put in an observation stay are seen as an extended outpatient visit, which means those with Medicare or other insurance are stuck with a higher co-pay. Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would require hospitals to warn patients about this added expense.


Don't Expect Your Doctor to Know
Recent studies have discovered that doctors know very little about what the services they're providing cost patients. More than 500 orthopedic surgeons were recently asked to estimate the costs of 13 common devices and shockingly they only got it right 20 percent of the time. So with a little research and questioning you may end up knowing more than your physician about the cost of healthcare today.

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