New database compares hospital costs
Comparing the cost of health care between hospitals just became a little bit easier.
A new federal database now gives people the ability to look up how much they can expect to pay at different hospitals.
The new federal data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gathered Medicare payments from thousands of hospitals in the U.S. for some of the most common treatments.
It found hospital charges for the same treatment can vary widely.
But here in La Crosse, it's a different story.
Local health leaders say the new federal data is a step in the right direction.
"It's a good thing. It's absolutely a good thing," said Gundersen Health System Senior Vice President of Business Jerry Arndt.
"This is a good thing to have this available," said Mayo Clinic Health System CAO Joe Kruse.
While costs across the nation vary widely, Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System have relatively similar rates.
For example, inpatient psychiatric treatment costs just more than $15,150 at Mayo. At Gundersen the price tag is almost $17,981.
For heart failure treatment, Mayo cost $18,405 and at Gundersen it costs 17,862.
They're prices that also fall below the national average.
While leaders at both hospitals like the new tool, they say it does have its shortfalls.
"The thing that's missing is the the severity of illness within that, so for example, if you have maybe 10 cases in a particular category they're not all the same and so some cases might have had more severe symptoms than others. So there are some variabilities in those prices that we have to be aware of," said Kruse.
"Charges are only a part of the story. There's at least three other key variables that come into play in the determination of healthcare value. First of all is quality and outcomes," said Arndt.
While the federal data is new to many areas of the country, Wisconsin already has tools for residents to compare prices that could be even more accurate.
"I think that if you go to the Wisconsin Hospital Association Price Point, which is representative of all patients, remember this is just the Medicare patients which is a subset of all the patients, you'll see less variability in hospitals in Wisconsin than what showed up in that report," said Kruse.
"The theme here is transparency. Wisconsin Price Point is a great example of the state of mind in Wisconsin," said Arndt.
While Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System were pretty similar in most rates, there are some treatments that have larger discrepancies.
For example, a major small and large bowel procedure at the two hospitals has about a $58,000 difference in cost.
To look at the federal comparison data, visit https://data.cms.gov/Medicare/Inpatient-Prospective-Payment-System-IPPS-Provider/97k6-zzx3
You can also look at the Wisconsin Price Point data at http://www.wipricepoint.org/
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