Tue
Jan 15 2019
09:36 am

Starting Jan. 1, a new federal rule requires the nation’s hospitals to post all their full-price charges on their websites. The idea is to introduce transparency into the world of hospital charges. But these newly-published price lists may end up leaving consumers even more confused than ever before.

Hospitals use a chargemaster list of prices for all services, goods, and procedures. The chargemaster price is usually the highest price a hospital would charge for services, goods, or procedures. Most people with insurance do not pay the chargemaster price. Insurance companies negotiate with hospitals to bring down the prices. If you don't have insurance or if a service, goods, or procedure is not covered, I would guess you will have to try and negotiate a lesser price or pay the high price.

Each of the hospital's standard charges sites has a disclaimer to which you have to agree with the understanding that the "information provided on these sites are estimates of the charges for a medical service or procedure. The information does not represent the actual amount you will be charged as many variables are involved in providing the amount."

Locally, UT Hospital uses the CDM code, charge description master. Tennova Turkey Creek uses a SVCCD code (don't know what that is). Fort Sanders (Covenant) uses a CPT code (current procedural terminology) as well as a CDM code.

I found it very hard if not impossible to use the price lists provided by the local hospitals to compare prices for services, goods, or procedures. It was my understanding that CPT codes were the standard for how medical providers identify services, goods, and procedures. However, using Fort Sanders Hospital downloaded file, it appears that there are over 4,000 items without a CPT code.

Besides that it is hard to navigate the price lists to compare prices, many people are covered by insurance and the prices are completely different and you are still unable to compare them.

Ft. Sanders (Covenant) has the best web site for looking up prices. UT Hospital and Tennova have you download a csv file, which can be opened in MS Excel or MS Word or similar software. Ft. Sanders also has an option to download a csv file.

I have yet to find the standard charges information when going directly to the local hospital web sites. I've had to Google hospital name standard charges to get links with access to this information.

Ft. Sanders Hospital Price Transparency

UT Hospital Price Transparency

Tennova Turkey Creek price Transparency

CMS.gov FAQs RE Price Transparency

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Requirements for Hospitals To Make Public a List of Their Standard Charges via the Internet

R. Neal's picture

Also, you'd have to be an MD

Also, you'd have to be an MD to understand what some of the procedures and supplies are or what they're for. And to know which ones would comprise "typical" treatment for something like a broken arm or a coronary bypass.

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