If you anticipate needing surgery any time soon, you may be surprised to hear how much money different hospitals in Connecticut charge for the same procedure.
New information released by the federal government shows the wildly different prices that hospitals in the same state and within the same community charge for common inpatient services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services used data from 2011 based on what hospitals charge Medicare.
According to the data, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London charged on average $10,473 to repair a person's fractured hip, while Waterbury Hospital charged $22,039. Hartford Hospital charged $20,843 to treat a kidney infection, while Yale-New Haven Hospital charged $35,611.
The hospitals each have vastly different ways of calculating their charges. For example, a spokesperson for Lawrence & Memorial Hospital said the hospital bases its charges on an average of ten similar sized hospitals in the area. Hartford Hospital acknowledged it bases charges on the average of what they have negotiated with insurance companies. Meantime, the CEO of Waterbury Hospital said they have a revenue cycle expert who is contracting with a private company to look at all charges to ensure they are in alignment to meet Medicare regulations.
Raymond McKay of East Granby recently required a knee surgery at a Connecticut hospital after he slipped on an icy driveway. He said he ran into a billing issue over a knee brace. As he was researching the costs that factored in to his health care, he noticed the wide range of costs for the same surgery at different hospitals.
"I think the real fix is transparency," McKay said. "There needs to be a basis where we can go and ask these questions of what care costs before care is rendered."
The Connecticut Hospital Association said hospitals in Connecticut treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay and are committed to transparency.
“Cost variation comes from a number of different factors including, but not limited to, the composition of the communities they serve, the types of diseases they treat, their infrastructure, and their needs to maintain current regulatory requirements,” said CHA spokesperson Michele Sharp.
The Connecticut Department of Insurance said the new information is another road map for consumers to make informed choices about their health care.
"With the affordable care act that companies and governments have been trying to get done is to have information out there for consumers so that they can make informed choices on procedures and how much they cost," said Gerard O'Sullivan of the Department of Insurance.
McKay argues the more transparent hospitals are with their costs, the more they will have to compete against each other.
McKay said, "Doctors are going to have to compete against other doctors, provide that same service and in any kind of free market system, when you have more competition, the price goes down."
Check all the data from Connecticut here: