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May 18, 2013

Study reflects local hospital costs on par

Community, St. Vincent provided cumulative $39 million last year in charity care

ANDERSON, Ind. — It’s hard to say what’s worse — being hospitalized, or the bill that follows.

But in some places, that bill might be a bigger hit than others: Say, Monterey Park, Calif., for example, where an inpatient being treated for heart failure could expect to pay as much as $18,502  — about twice the average between Madison County’s Community Hospital Anderson and St. Vincent Anderson Regional.

That’s according to a newly-released federal database of more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals’ 2011 inpatient health care costs, which showed, across the board, Madison County’s hospitals are pretty on-par.

Using heart failure as an example, the national average payment was about $8,536 with major complications. At St. Vincent, that number was $9,483; at Community,$8,612.

But that’s only one example. For some other treatments, the two hospitals jockey for the lower price tag, sometimes both falling below average.

“We try very hard to keep our costs down,” said Terri Rinker, Community Anderson’s revenue cycle director. “It’s good that people can get the chance to see that.”

Prices seem to swing with the local cost of living. In Fairbanks, Alaska, for instance, where the overall cost of living is 32 percent above the national average, a heart failure inpatient might pay over $20,000 for similar services.

In Central Indiana, where the cost of living for most counties falls below national average, that number hits just south of $9,000, according to listed inpatient payments from Anderson, Muncie’s Ball Memorial, Richmond’s Reid Hospital, Marion General, Noblesville’s Riverview and Greenfield’s Hancock Regional,

It’s important to note the numbers don’t account for individual circumstances, which can affect the final bill and drive up a hospital’s average.

“Care is individually tailored to each patient,” said Tom VanOsdol, president of St. Vincent Northeast Region and St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital. “Because each patient’s needs vary and each patient will respond to care differently, the cost of care per diagnosis will vary depending on the services provided, supplies needed and length of time a patient is in the hospital.”

According to the American Hospital Association, American hospitals operate with an average profit margin of under six percent. For not-for-profits, such as Community Anderson and St. Vincent, that money is pumped back into improvements such as maintenance, keeping pace with technological advancements and meeting new government regulations.

Also worthy of mention is that, at both Anderson hospitals, the average inpatient paid less than sticker price — significantly so. Those roughly $9,000 payments for the most extensive heart-failure treatments are initially quoted between $17,788 (Community) and $35,746 (St. Vincent).

Since both are not-for-profit, the Association says, they’re obligated to have discount policies and offer financial assistance. Last year, Community provided about $10 million in charity medical care. St. Vincent provided nearly $29 million.

“Regardless of financial circumstances, no one’s turned away,” Rinker said. “We’re not going to say, ‘You can’t pay, you don’t get treatment.’”

Like Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and on Twitter @BayleeNPulliam, or call 648-4250.

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