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: Lone holdout

    Missouri continues to be the only state in the United States that won’t allow a prescription drug database to be established.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anson Burlingame, guest columnist: Much has changed in U.S. over 14 years

    Does anyone recall the major economic argument during the 2000 presidential campaign between George Bush and Al Gore?

    July 22, 2014

  • Our View: Vote no on Amendment 1

    Proponents of Amendment 1 — the Right to Farm Act — have not made their case. We’ve met with advocates of this amendment to the Missouri constitution and listened to their arguments, but we don’t believe they have adequately answered the central question: Who is it protecting, and from what?

    July 13, 2014

  • Your View: Amendment 5 is deception of the highest order

    Amendment 5, sponsored by Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, “relating to the right of Missouri citizens to keep and bear arms” provides that “any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

    July 21, 2014

  • Other Views Other Views: No time to turn away

    With the shooting down of a commercial airliner over Ukraine and fighting that has now escalated to a ground war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, it would be easy for most U.S. citizens to throw up their hands and turn their backs.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Power to defend

    The Globe’s editorial ‘More guns not the answer’ (July 15) was saturated with classic progressive blather.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your View: Thanks for the generosity

    Generally, all we hear about is the bad news, and obviously, there is plenty available. Our church felt this event worthy of public knowledge.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your View: How to upgrade your business

    Let’s see now. When some folks wish to improve the exterior of their properties and have other taxpayers pay for the improvements, they create a community improvement district.

    July 21, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our view: Street smarts

    If your daily commute has been shortened because you no longer have to wait at 26th Street and Connecticut Avenue for a train to pass, thank your own tax dollars.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Decision fails test

    With the announcement that the State Board of Education has decided not to release individual school test results because of cyberattacks and other problems this spring, educators are scratching their heads, as are taxpayers who footed the bill.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Facebook
NDN Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City
Sports