How Hospital Pricing Fluctuates

The federal government’s new rule requiring hospitals to post prices for their services is intended to allow patients to shop around and compare prices, a step toward price transparency that California has mandated since 2005.

California Healthline examined the price lists — known in hospital lingo as “chargemasters” — of four large acute care hospitals in Oakland, Calif., and another four in Los Angeles, using the documents California hospitals have been reporting annually to the California Department of Public Health — the same information the federal government is now requiring all hospitals to post on their websites.

The comparison of some basic procedures found wide-ranging prices, sometimes between hospitals that are part of the same network or located just miles from each other.

Whether you will be able to determine the best prices when you have a need for a hospital is another question. Read KHN senior correspondent Julie Appleby and California Healthline’s Barbara Feder Ostrov’s coverage of this new rule here.