So What Are You S’Posed to Do With Those Hospital Prices?

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So What Are You S’Posed to Do With Those Hospital Prices?

In the category of “be careful what you wish for…”  Well-meaning policy people have now created a monster.  We can name this monster “Good Start,” but it’s not a very useful monster – yet. That monster rears its ugly head in the form of the new law that became effective January 1, 2019 that requires most hospitals to make their pricing available to the public. The idea – a good one – is that there is nothing else in this world that we are required to buy or pay for where we can’t find out what the pricing is before we commit to the purchase, so why should hospitals be any different? The result is what thousands of patients – and journalists – have discovered during the past week or so. That is, that master lists of service-by-number, codes, and prices that are indecipherable by the lay person. So what use are they? Rather than just throw in the towel, let’s take a look to see what they are and what, at this early stage, we can really do with them. First – how can you find pricing for the hospital you might need to use? It’s a great question, and believe me, most hospitals have done everything they can to obscure the pricing from your peering eyes. But a little diligence and you should be able to find their list. Here’s one way to get your hospital’s pricing: Do a search (Google, Bing, Yahoo) with the name of your hospital, and “pricing” or “price list” or “prices”.   From there you should see something that references these lists of charges, or tells how you can get an estimate. What you will probably find is what hospitals call the “Charge Master” – their document, sometimes hundreds of pages long, with lots of med-speak and pricing that means very little to us. My local hospital’s Charge Master is 143 pages of lists like you see at right. The Cleveland Clinic’s Charge Master lists 5,760 CPT codes (Current Procedural Technology) and their pricing.  But nothing that lines up a CPT code with a need for services. Now, there is almost nothing YOU can do with this list. Why? Because any one service from the hospital is actually made up of many of these charges. There might be a price for a room, but there will also be prices for the bedding, the equipment,…



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