Cost of health care (generic)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal mandate requiring hospitals in Kentucky and throughout the United States to reveal their once-secret master price lists still leaves patients in the dark.

The government required hospitals to make these lists available to the public with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but until this week, hospitals were not required to publish them. The prices are now online, but figuring out how much that bag of saline or a medical sensor actually costs is a much different story. It's buried in pages upon pages of prices, listed with names most don't know and won't understand.

"We have our doubts as to what value it will actually bring to the consumer," said Carl Herde, vice president of finance for the Kentucky Hospital Association and the former CFO of Baptist Health. "We think there are better ways to help inform the consumer."

Tanya Smith pays close attention to cost. 

"I'm a diabetic, high blood pressure, slipped disk in my back ... and several surgeries," she said. "I've got a doctor for every occasion."  

At age 60, she's already survived five heart attacks and said the price of health care can be just as painful as the hospital visit itself.

"It's very stressful, very stressful ... because, like I said, Medicare only pays 80 percent."

Looking at these new prices listed online could add to Smith's bill stress as the prices listed on hospital websites are not indicative of what most patients will pay. 

"Every insurer will have a different contract with an individual hospital, along with your plan may be different," Herde said. "So if you have a high deductible plan or co-insurance, whether it's in network or not in network, all that impacts what you as the consumer actually end up paying."

WDRB News compared the four major hospital groups in Louisville: Baptist Health, Norton Healthcare, KentuckyOne Health (Jewish Hospital) and University Hospital. Our findings indicate that the cheapest cost for a regular birth varies from approximately $2,000 to more than $4,000. Meanwhile, a 250 mL injection of Sipuleucel-T, a treatment used for prostate cancer, was $161,820 at U of L Hospital and $54,458 at Jewish Hospital right next door.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said this new effort is meant to improve price transparency in health care.

"I think it's going to be where a lot of people don't understand it," Smith said. 

Links for the published prices are below:

For Norton Healthcare pricing, CLICK HERE.

For Baptist Health pricing, CLICK HERE.

For KentuckyOne Health pricing, CLICK HERE.

For U of L Hospital pricing, CLICK HERE.

For Indiana hospital pricing, CLICK HERE.

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