The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 13, 2013

Other Views: Sickening disparity

— Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand the wide, sometimes huge, discrepancies in fees hospitals charge for the same procedure. Or if you don’t understand the arithmetical magic the hospitals use to arrive at those fees.

Neither does the federal government. Their officials are mystified, too.

The Associated Press asked Jonathan Blum, Medicare’s deputy administrator, why the same joint replacement costs 40 times as much at one hospital as at another across the country.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, noting that the higher charges don’t necessarily reflect better care. Even the American Hospital Association calls the current billing system, “complex and bewildering,” says USA Today.

To bring some clarity to the pricing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published the costs for 100 common procedures at 3,337 hospitals (http://www.cms.gov). The government hopes publishing comparative costs will promote competition and lower prices, especially as the Affordable Care Act begins taking effect.

The wide discrepancy in prices cannot be totally explained by regional differences; the cost of treating older, sicker or indigent patients; the cost of running a teaching hospital; or exceptional levels of care.

News organizations quickly pinpointed huge and puzzling differences in what hospitals charge for the same operation.

AP said that, exclusive of the doctors’ fees, the average charge for a joint replacement ranged from about $5,300 in Ada, Okla., to $223,000 in Monterey Park, Calif.

Beyond simple side-by-side price comparisons, hospital costs become vastly more complicated by such issues as the complexity of the ailment and the length of the hospital stay.

Private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid negotiate their own reimbursement rates with hospitals and doctors. The uninsured are often carried on the hospital’s books as being charged the full rate but that amount is subject to negotiation based on the patient’s ability to pay, and the truly indigent don’t pay at all.

The base charges are the simplest means of comparison. But beyond that, patients are largely on their own in navigating the complex world of medical fees. President Barack Obama’s health care advisers are hoping that some bright entrepreneur will create an app for that.

Scripps Howard News Service

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Our View.jpg Our View: Too many questions on No. 5

    Even though the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” Missouri voters on Aug. 5 are being asked to consider an amendment that restates that freedom and then goes even further.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Beware the wolf

    The wolf (the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other radical animal rights organizations) has conned Little Red Riding Hood (the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, The Joplin Globe editorial staff and, as of last week, the local Democratic leadership).

    July 31, 2014

  • Your View: Dally for Division 5

    I have known Nate Dally almost my entire life. As we grew up, Nate always had a strong passion and desire to make sure everyone was treated fairly and equally.

    July 31, 2014

  • Your View: Vote ‘no’ on 7

    The Globe has been on my reading list for over 35 years, and during that time the Globe has frequently supported tax increases. Same thing again in the Sunday, July 27, editorial, “‘Yes’ on 7.”

    July 31, 2014

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: An America transformed

    On Oct. 30, 2008, Barack Obama boldly declared: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Other Views Other Views: Open the primaries

    Missourians will go to the polls in the Aug. 5 primary.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: ‘Right to Farm’ is wrong

    On Aug. 5, voters will be asked to make a decision about Amendment 1.

    July 29, 2014

  • Your View: No on Amendment 7

    The Missouri Department of Transportation is wanting more money through a three-quarter-cent addition to the sales tax. Consider one example of how it spends your money.

    July 29, 2014

  • Your View: Bad way to get revenue

    I received two fliers through the mail today asking me to vote “yes” on Amendment 7, which would add a three-quarter-cent tax to Missouri’s sales tax to help maintain roads and bridges.

    July 29, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: No need for No. 9

    “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Poll

Missouri's sales tax-free weekend begins Friday. Do you plan purchases around this weekend?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Facebook
NDN Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Sports