VENTURA COUNTY: Home To ‘Bargain’ Hospital Prices
While California hospital bills are among the most expensive in the nation, Ventura County's "are still a relative bargain," according to a study comparing national medical costs. Data Advantage Corp. found that the average hospital bill across the nation was around $13,000, but the average in California was more than $16,000. In Ventura County, however, the average bill was slightly less than $14,000, with all seven of the county's hospitals checking in below the statewide average. Researchers found that Ventura County "ranked 18th on a list of 24 metropolitan areas statewide, far behind rural areas like Modesto or major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland." In fact, some hospitals in the county, such as Ojai Valley Hospital at less than $8,000 a stay, are half as expensive as the state average. "We're trying to make sure we provide the best care we can for everyone in our community for a fair price," said Ojai Valley CEO Mark Turner. "Ojai might be just a microcosm of the county in that we take seriously our commitment to our communities to provide high quality health care at a fair price," he said, adding that "price is a factor determining access." The Ventura County Star reports that the study used a "case mix index" to calculate the average hospital bills, controlling for more expensive surgeries and extreme medical cases. However, the comparisons were based on hospital billings, "which are often negotiated lower before they are finally paid." Russ Maney, vice president of marketing and sales for Data Advantage, said consumers often are not aware of hospitals' price differences. "You have to ask, in what other industry could this type of price disparity take place? The answer is none," he said. He continued, "A lot of HMOs are going to a copayment where the patient might have to pay 5%, 10% or 20% of the costs out of pocket, so that can make a big difference. The average person in going to be (affected) more by the hospital's price" (Sprengelmeyer, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.