Starting this year, hospitals are now required to post prices for procedures online, but some health care experts warn it’s not as straightforward as it might appear.
One woman visiting her dad in the hospital says even with the new law, she won’t see the final dollar amount until her insurance is billed.
“If I had to pay the 20 percent or the high deductible, I think I would want to know what each procedure costs,” said Debbie Reeves, a resident of Bakersfield.
The new law is a step toward price transparency so people can make informed decisions about their health care.
Gene Keller educates Dignity Health patients from San Luis Obispo to Ventura County and says the new law might be confusing.
“I am comparing fruit, but I’m not comparing apples to apples,” said Keller, Vice President of Quality at Dignity Health. “I may be apples to pears. I think the consumer needs to be sensitive to that, use this as sort of a stepping off point, ask questions.”
That’s because many factors contribute to the overall cost, like patient needs, procedure options and insurance contracts.
“I think the transparency reports are going along with the trend today that the consumer should have the right to choose their type of care and we are all for it,” Keller said.
Susan Polk, a local health insurance broker, says it’s a step in the right direction but won’t be useful for most people.
“Cost transparency is a good idea,” Polk said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be much difference than it was before. The price the hospital charges is one thing, but it depends what the insurance company will reimburse.”
Polk said health care transparency should eventually include the role of insurance companies.
“To publish the standard rate for a colonoscopy is one thing, but to drill that down to what it will be based on the insurance you have, I think that would be much more valuable,” Polk said.
Health care experts say it’s important to ask questions about different procedures and factor in the hospital’s safety record, quality of care and location to get the best bang for your health care buck.
You can find more information about the cost of procedures under the “Quality Transparency Dashboard” on your local hospital’s website.