Newspapers Examine Hospital Pricing Discrepancies
Recently published articles on Sunday examined a law implemented July 1, 2004, that allows consumers access to official hospital charges. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that prices for health procedures at hospitals across the state vary "wildly" and that "very few patients are actually charged the official prices that hospitals have to make public." In addition, "few people seem to be aware of the law," the Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/30).
The law, introduced by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles), requires hospitals to report fee schedules for supplies and services to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The law does not require hospitals to explain how they determine prices (California Healthline, 1/3).
"Few patients would understand" the breakdown of costs if they asked to see them because "patients who want to know the cost of an entire procedure would have to identify all the drugs, equipment and services needed and add up each charge code," the Chronicle reports. The total cost would only apply to patients without health insurance who are able to afford the full bill (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/30).
In addition, charges for specific procedures vary by hospital because "charges for services must cover the costs of operating the hospital and services the hospitals provide for free," the Monterey County Herald reports (Segal, Monterey County Herald, 1/30).
"Prices in the hospitals have absolutely nothing to do with anything," Steven Russo, senior vice president of Healthcare Financial Solutions in Oakland, said (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/30).
Frommer said, "They're very meaningful numbers," adding, "If you're uninsured, that's the price you're going to pay" (Monterey County Herald, 1/30).