Federal government required all hospitals to have all their prices online by Jan. 1
With the new year came a new federal rule that required all hospitals in the nation to publicly post the cost of all their services and materials.
For Wenatchee-based Confluence Health, that meant three different lengthy lists for health care facilities it operates and a separate list for the medications it dispenses.
Among those Confluence facilities is Central Washington Hospital, where you’ll be charged $74 if they place a needle in your vein. While that procedure and charge seem straight-forward, what might be less clear, unless you’re a doctor, is a TIBIAL PERONEAL EA ADD W PTA, which will set you back $7,647.
Chief Financial Officer John Doyle said Confluence spent most of the past year just trying to understand Medicare’s rules on the pricing disclosures.
“When the rule first came out, guidance was gray and hospitals had a lot of questions on what it should look like, Doyle said. Once they figured that out, he said, actually posting the prices went fairly smoothly.
Though they are in favor of transparency, the pricing information, Doyle said, is not a good guide for what a patient’s out-of-pocket expense will eventually be. That often is determined by their health care coverage and other factors.
In addition, there are complexities and differences with procedures that make a flat charge difficult to pin down.
For example, there are four different costs listed under “toe amputation,” ranging from $923 to $3,951.
In addition, a toe amputation may require a hospital stay. There also could be anesthesia costs, therapy and a number of other things that make the flat fee less useful.
If someone wants a better idea of what a procedure will cost, the hospital can work with them to get a good overall estimate, Doyle said.
So far, nobody has contacted them with questions or complaints about their online price list, he said.
Whether having all their prices online will ultimately work to the benefit of patients is unclear, Doyle said.
“I think the current rule and the current information is more confusion for the patient,” Doyle said. “However if you look at our website we do have contact information for people who want estimates.”
Confluence has not yet looked at what other hospitals are charging to compare prices, he said, adding that they already set their prices to be competitive.
Confluence also can help people with the language of medicine, Doyle said.
While you may not know the difference between a “biopsy of skin lesion,” which will set you back $504, and the seemingly bargain-priced “biopsy of skin lesion-PBB” for $190, they are happy to explain.