Area hospitals, to stay in compliance with federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are working to post list prices for things like hospital stays, procedures, services, drugs and supplies.
The new law went into effect Jan. 1.
Chris Gildea, marketing and community relations director at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, said hospital officials are working to make that information available, but are trying to list the prices in a way that’s the least confusing to those who look for them.
“We’re looking at what other hospitals are doing on their websites,” she said. “We’re looking at posting what we call our charge master, so people can look up any number of procedures online to see what the hospital charges are.”
Gildea, however, echoed some of the criticism of posting such charges online.
“The charges listed are often not what the patient pays, but it’s a starting point to assess what the cost may be,” she said. “We also have to look at our insurances and contracts we have to modify that price.”
While the prices had to be posted by Jan. 1, Gildea said listing prices for procedures, because of the differences between costs and what patients actually pay for them, is more complicated than what people may think.
“It’s a very complicated, significant document that may be as confusing as well as informative,” she said. “A doctor lists a treatment by a specific code, and the procedures may be listed by code. We’re trying to see how others do it before we go live with it.
Other regional health systems, have already had systems in place to help patients with out-of-pocket costs, but Geisinger said this is taking their tool, called MyEstimate®, one step further, to be in compliance with CMS guidelines.
According to a press release from Geisinger, this an an opportunity to help patients further understand their financial obligations.
“Geisinger welcomes the opportunity to engage in consumer-friendly communication to help patients understand what their potential financial liability might be for services obtained at our hospitals,” said Barbara Tapscott, vice president of revenue management. “You can obtain this information online on our patient billing service page. If needed, you can follow up by talking with one of our financial counselors for assistance or to request an in-person appointment.”
Those who use Geisinger can go to www.geisinger.org/patient-care/patients-and-visitors/billing-and-insurance and click on “Tools You Can Use” and “Hospital Charge List” to see specific charges.
UPMC does not have charges listed on their website, and in a report from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a UPMC spokesperson said listing charges may not be beneficial.
“It is highly unlikely that this will provide any meaningful information that would be useful for patients,” said spokeswoman Susan Manko in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette report. “It is important to understand that the standard charge is not the amount that a patient is expected to pay for receiving health care services.”