Our hospital pricing database: Data posted by providers, in convenient form

Filed Under: Costs

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Summary:  How much does childbirth  cost? How much does an MRI cost? Gall bladder surgery, arthroscopy? We are asked that question a lot, and so we built a  database of cash or self-pay hospital prices that were posted by providers online. While we’ve been collecting pricing for modest “shoppable” procedures since our founding in early 2011 (see our front page and search boxes there), this new database constitutes a separate database of cash or self-pay prices for more expensive, typically hospital-based, procedures.

 

 


The source of this information is the hospitals and surgical centers themselves: one big for-profit hospital chain, Hospital Corporation of America, and also other hospitals and surgical centers posting online prices, including these and others: Surgery Center of Oklahoma, Regency Healthcare in New York City, Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.; Banner Health in Arizona.

We’ve blogged about this before: here’s the full post we wrote on the roll-out.

The procedures are a mix of in-patient (childbirth, treatment for chest pain) and outpatient (mammogram, MRI, endoscopy). Different hospitals and surgical centers do different procedures, of course. Many states are represented, some with one provider and some with many. In the notes field for the hospital in question, we’re putting a link to their pricing policy, so you know which conditions apply.

The pricing comes with conditions or caveats. Surgery Center of Oklahoma posts its prices online, and describes its prices as binding and guaranteed. HCA posts prices online and describes them as estimates only. Each of the other sources of pricing has its own conditions and stipulations; Rochester General, for example, is clear to say that doctor and anesthesiologist will charge separately.

Since we first posted this database, we have sought feedback from patients: is the data correct? did the provider match these prices? what was your experience like? We would love to hear.

While states like California and Ohio have mandated that sticker prices (or charged prices) be made public, that’s not always useful: those sticker prices are rarely what’s paid, and many providers have started to list cash or self-pay prices.

Some  providers include doctor and anesthesiologist prices in their listings, and some don’t. Of course, that means it’s hard to compare.

That’s true, but the prices are interesting. Even partial transparency begins the conversation, and lets us hope for more.

Hospitals, of course, are required by some state laws to post their prices. But the conditions for posting prices differ from state to state. (Here’s a good state roundup on what regulations look like on that.) Even if they are required to disclose, few do — or they disclose their chargemaster or “sticker price,” which is generally assumed to be wildly inflated. That’s what typically happens in California and Ohio, two places where transparency is mandated by law.

For further information on pricing services, you can take at them, and also look at our “useful links” page, where you’ll find a collection of information.

Some notes and tips on how to use this database

A couple of notes: the hospitals use different terminology to describe their services in some places. Because we didn’t know for sure that “Normal Vaginal Delivery of a Newborn – Mother’s Stay,” at H.C.A., is the same as “Vaginal delivery w/o complicating diagnoses,” at Banner Health, we left the hospitals’ original terminology. It’s confusing, but so is our health-care system.

Things to search for: vaginal delivery, C-section, tympanostomy (ear tubes), bunion, MRI, X-ray, colonoscopy, CAT scan, ultrasound, cataract removal, arthroscopy, endoscopy, blood transfusion, hernia repair. That should get you started.

If you type in a few letters, the search tool will offer you suggestions of what it thinks you’re seeking. If you find an item and it’s not in your state, try “all states,” the first location in the states list.

A bug we’re fixing: the search tool doesn’t always re-set to its original state after a search. So if you can’t get a result, try refreshing your browser window to start again.