Hospital Prices On The Web

December 21, 2007
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Hospital Prices On The Web
LANSING — A new Web site lets the public review hospital prices for 50 common procedures, making Michigan one of just a few states to voluntarily distribute such information.

Created by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, www.mihospitalinform.org offers information about prices, payments, average lengths of stay and numbers of patients for each of the categories for 146 hospitals.

Another section of the Web site focuses on quality measures for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and steps taken to prevent surgical site infections.

“For years, the business and consumer communities have been asking for this information,” said Lori Latham, MHA’s senior director of political and public affairs. “Our governing board is responding to a call for greater transparency in health care pricing.”

The quality information is from www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, a Web site compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the hospital quality alliance.

Pricing information comes from CMS and is based solely on Medicare data from September 2005 to October 2006. The information already was public, but MHA is aiming for a user-friendly approach, Latham said.

The site reveals, for example, that the average hospital charge for a hip or knee replacement at Metro Health Hospital was $28,527; it was $22,351 at Saint Mary’s Health Care, and $18,497 at Spectrum Health. That doesn’t include other items such as doctors’ charges.

While hospitals are required by law to charge the same amount to each patient, regardless of insurance status, the actual average payments the hospitals receive from Medicare are much lower. For a hip and knee replacement, average Medicare payments were $14,464 at Metro, $12,735 at Saint Mary’s and $12,739 at Spectrum.

Latham said the average Medicare figures are a close approximation to payments from all insurance sources. “Medicare is a good representation of it,” she said. “It does capture a large volume of our patient population, so it’s a good benchmark for consumers to use to see the cost of a procedure.

“This is only the average payment of a procedure,” Latham added. “Your ultimate cost will vary based on your health care needs. And this only includes hospital pricing information. You need to consult with your physician or surgeon to see what other fees may be associated with a procedure. You should also consult your insurance company.

“This is one tool in the tool chest in making health care decisions.”

Saint Mary’s President and CEO Phil McCorkle, a member of the MHA board of directors, chaired the task force that created the Web site. He said the MHA wanted to present pricing information before the Legislature decided to mandate it.

“Some states have been mandated to release this data. Others have done it voluntarily,” McCorkle said. “There was some discussion that … it was more in keeping with our behavior to release this information, so we decided it would be something we would work on this year.”

McCorkle said the committee looked at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s model, but decided to have MHA staff craft its own. He described it as a first step, saying that more and different information will be added as time goes on.

“It’s going to be evolutionary,” he said. “In another year, it will look differently and in another year, it will look differently from that.”

Andy Johnston, who works with health care issues as public policy coordinator for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, applauded the Web site as a good step forward for transparency.

“As we move into more consumer-directed health care plans and models, the availability and accessibility of this type of information is going to be more important,” Johnston said.

Last year, Spectrum Health became the first hospital in the state to post prices on the Web, spokesman Bruce Rossman noted. The figures reported on Spectrum’s Web site and those on the MHA Web site will differ, he added, because Spectrum uses its own information rather than relying strictly on Medicare data.

McCorkle said he hopes business owners will use the MHA site to investigate average costs across the state. He said he thinks they would find West Michigan hospital prices among the lowest in the state.

“We see health care in West Michigan as such an incredible buy,” McCorkle said. “We really are anxious for the business community to understand what we’ve got here in West Michigan.”

Heart Failure Data From

www.mihospitalinform.org


Hospital

Average Medicare Charge*

Number of Patients

Length of Stay

Hackley Hospital 

$9,333

128

4.0

Mercy General Health Partners 

$11,055

251

 4.3

Metro Health

$10,779

120

4.0

Saint Mary’s Health Care

$10,878

258

4.2

Spectrum Health

$10,851

735

4.5

*2005-06 fiscal year

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