Cleveland Hospitals Post Prices Online But Doubt Consumers Will Benefit

Stock photo of a calculator, a stethoscope and pen on a medical billing statement. [everydayplus / Shutterstock]
[everydayplus / Shutterstock]
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If you want to compare the price of a pregnancy test at the Cleveland Clinic versus University Hospitals, the information is now on their websites.

Starting January 1, the Affordable Care Act mandated that hospitals provide a list of prices for all medical costs from a nursery bed to a transcatheter biopsy. 

The intent of the requirement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is to bring transparency and help consumers shop around.

Lisa Anderson, Vice President of the Center for Health Affairs, a Cleveland-based hospital trade association, says all hospitals have something called a "chargemaster," a list of what they charge for every medical cost.

But Anderson is concerned some consumers may be confused by looking at retail prices on a spreadsheet without any other context. She says understanding how medical services are priced is complex, and most prices on the chargemaster do not represent what a typical patient pays.

“Most patients pay a negotiated rate through their insurance or they may be on some sort of governmental insurance such as Medicaid or Medicare,” Anderson said.

Medicare and Medicaid patients don’t pay the prices listed on hospital websites because the government negotiates a different rate for them.

People with no insurance, however, may have to pay the chargemaster rate or retail price listed by hospitals, Anderson said, but they represent a small percentage of the overall population.

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