Some Upstate Hospitals Slow to Disclose Prices - WSPA.com

Some Upstate Hospitals Slow to Disclose Prices

Posted: Updated: 10/25/2013 4:47:00 PM
On Tuesday, Greenville Health System approved a new $1.8 Billion budget. Afterwards, CEO Michael Riordan said in an official release that there would be “no additional price increase for patients.” But what are the hospital’s prices? Finding out is more d On Tuesday, Greenville Health System approved a new $1.8 Billion budget. Afterwards, CEO Michael Riordan said in an official release that there would be “no additional price increase for patients.” But what are the hospital’s prices? Finding out is more d
GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. -

On Tuesday, Greenville Health System approved a new $1.8 Billion budget.  Afterwards, CEO Michael Riordan said in an official release that there would be “no additional price increase for patients.”

But what are the hospital’s prices?  Finding out is more difficult than you might think.

“Very few things are simple when it comes to a hospital or a health care provider, especially when it comes to setting fees," said Neil Caesar who represents hospitals and doctors as a healthcare attorney. His company does not represent any hospitals in this report.

Hospitals usually negotiate prices with insurance companies and offer discounts for the uninsured.  Many offer further discounts for patients willing to pay in cash.

Those prices are derived from a codemaster, or fee schedule, which sets rates for every pill and procedure.

It’s much like the sticker price on a new car.  It’s a starting point, but more than most customers actually pay.

“The only difference is the hospital never goes out of it's way to tell you the sticker price," Caesar said.

7 On Your Side asked four Upstate hospitals for the retail price of 4 basic items : a room, a chest x-ray, an aspirin, and the saline solution given through an IV.

One, AnMed Health in Anderson, initially refused to say what their prices are.  

A hospital spokeswoman replied by email “charges do not reflect what most patients actually pay. In fact, less than 1 percent of AnMed Health's patients paid the amount listed on the chargemaster."

Which is certainly true.  The “retail” price is rarely the price you pay.  Still, 7 On Your Side asked again.

“Since 99 percent of our patients do not pay chargemaster rates, we don't think it's a meaningful way for your viewers to compare the cost of hospital services,” wrote spokeswoman Kari Lutz. 

After this story aired Friday, Lutz sent the prices by email Monday.

Private room : $1,273
Chest X-Ray : $268
Aspirin : Free
IV Saline : $195

Likewise, after two days of trying to track down those four prices, Spartanburg Regional Hospital was unable to respond.

Greenville’s St. Francis and Greenville Health System did responded Friday.

At GHS :

Room Rate : $850

Chest X-Ray : $197

Aspirin : No Charge

Saline IV : $64 (starting price depending on size)

Again, this is the so called chargemaster price, not what you’d likely pay.  GHS chief financial officer Terri Newsom notes the discounts negotiated with insurance carriers and discounts for the uninsured that, based on ability to pay, range from 20% to 100%.

St. Francis also negotiates prices and offers a deep 75% discount to those who pay with cash. 

St Francis :

Room Rate :$1328

Chest X-Ray : $300

Aspirin : $1

Saline : $202

Again, that’s not what you’d likely pay.

Which means finding the real cost of even the most basic services at a hospital can be nearly impossible to discern.  7 On Your Side has submitted Freedom of Information requests to learn more about these prices and will post that information here so you can make informed decisions.

This story was updated from a prior version to include prices from AnMed Health.Ups

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