The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

May 9, 2013

High hospital bills go public, but will it help?

WASHINGTON —  For the first time, the government is publicly revealing how much hospitals charge, and the differences are astounding: Some bill tens of thousands of dollars more than others for the same treatment, even within the same city.

Why does a joint replacement cost 40 times as much at one hospital as at another across the country? It's a mystery, federal health officials say.

"It doesn't make sense," Jonathan Blum, Medicare deputy administrator, said Wednesday. The higher charges don't reflect better care, he said.

And the amounts are too huge to be explained by obvious differences among hospitals, such as a more expensive regional economy, older or sicker patients, or the extra costs of running a teaching hospital, he said.

The average charges for joint replacement range from about $5,300 at an Ada, Okla., hospital to $223,000 in Monterey Park, Calif., the Department of Health and Human Services said. That doesn't include doctors' fees.

Hospitals within the same city also vary greatly. At Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, the average charge to treat a blood clot in a lung is $51,580. Down the street at NYU Hospitals Center, the charge for the same care would be $29,869.

At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the list price is $16,861.

That isn't necessarily what you pay.

Medicare pays hospitals on its own fee schedule that isn't based on the listed charges, Blum said. And insurance companies routinely negotiate discount rates with the hospitals.

But patients who are uninsured can be billed the full amount. And some with private insurance may find their share of the bill is inflated as a result of a hospital's higher charges, officials said.

Blum said the Obama administration hopes that releasing the information, at the website www.cms.gov, will help lead to answers to the riddle of hospital pricing — and pressure some hospitals to lower their charges.

Text Only
Nation & World
  • Sherpas consider boycott after Everest disaster

    Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community.

    April 21, 2014

  • Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado

    Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 21, 2014

  • Woman reunited with dog, TV snatched on 1st date

    A woman has been reunited with her Yorkshire Terrier and flat-screen TV that were snatched during her first date with a man she met online.

    April 21, 2014

  • Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado

    Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 20, 2014

  • Miss America: Rethink suspension over prom query

    Miss America is asking a Pennsylvania school district to reconsider the punishment of a high school senior who asked her to prom during the question-and-answer portion of an assembly.

    April 20, 2014

  • news_popefrancis.jpg Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

    Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted many Christians.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_24restaurants.jpg Mayor's menu filled up: One day, 24 restaurants

    Jenkintown (Pa.) Mayor Ed Foley, in a gut-busting campaign to draw attention to the tiny borough's varied restaurant scene, set out to visit all 24 of them on Saturday, starting with a pre-dawn visit to IHOP.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ukraine.jpg US weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_skoreaferry.jpg 10 more bodies found inside sunken ferry by divers

    Divers recovered 13 bodies from inside a ferry that sank off South Korea, pushing the confirmed death toll to 46, officials said Sunday. The discovery came after rescuers finally gained access to the inside of the ship following three days of failure and frustration caused by strong currents and bad visibility due to inclement weather.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • spt_flanagan.jpg Hometown favorite wants to win Boston Marathon, for Boston

    Shalane Flanagan grew up in nearby Marblehead with a reverence for the Boston Marathon and dreamed, like many locals and foreign runners alike, that she would win the race someday. Her goal has changed now.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo