New Web site offers guide to hospital pricing

For Release:
July 15, 2015

For more information: Elizabeth Burt

"Nothing is more frustrating than sticker-shock when you make an important purchase," said Thornton Kirby, South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) CEO. "Our hospitals work every day to improve the health of South Carolina citizens and we are determined to address, truthfully and candidly, the growing concern of hospital pricing in our state." South Carolina citizens now have access to information about hospital charges, including comparative data, that has not been readily available. SCHA has a new Web site to help consumers better understand hospital pricing. Called South Carolina PricePoint, the site allows members of the public to access information about services and charges at hospitals throughout the state.

"This is a starting point for price transparency in South Carolina," said Bill Manson, chairman of the SCHA board and CEO of AnMed Health in Anderson.

"Our state’s hospitals put the health care needs of our patients first every day. Over the past decade, the state’s hospitals have worked collaboratively to deliver high-value health care that centers around the patient’s needs. South Carolina is a leader in quality and safety of hospital care, providing an example for other states.

"South Carolinians know they can count on their hospitals for quality care. We want them to know that they can also count on us when they need information to make better informed health care decisions," added Manson, who chaired the special SCHA Task Force whose research and discussions led to a recommendation that SC PricePoint be created.

But what hospitals charge and what most patients and insurers pay are two different things.

Hospitals are required to post charges for all services and supplies. These charges are just like the “suggested retail price” of an item or the sticker price of a new car. What consumers and insurers pay is usually a very different rate.

"SC PricePoint data is based on these 'suggested retail prices.' It's impossible for hospitals to post all of the prices individuals will pay because there are hundreds of insurer contracts and thousands of different insurance and payment plans. What a patient actually pays is largely determined by that patient’s coverage," Kirby explained.

"Although the charge data almost always overstates the cost to patients for care, hospitals are sharing the information that is available to help move the state toward greater health care price transparency," he said.

SC PricePoint advises insured patients to talk with their insurance companies up front to find out what their out-of-pocket costs will be. What patients ultimately pay will depend on whether they have insurance, as well as the type of coverage. Private insurers negotiate discounts with some providers, and government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, mandate hospital reimbursement payment rates..

All hospitals have financial assistance programs for reduced or free care to patients of need and payment plans for self-pay patients. Therefore, patients without insurance are encouraged to contact the hospital in advance of their care to ensure they understand the true cost and payment options..

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07-15-2015 12:40 (EDT)