WTOC Investigates: Cost of healthcare

WTOC Investigates: Cost of healthcare

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Hospitals around the country are now required to post the cost of their services online. This comes as the federal government aims to make healthcare costs more transparent.

WTOC sat down with St. Joseph’s/Candler CFO, who tells us they had about eight months to prepare and comply with the new mandate. While it’s a step in the direction, he says it may not be as helpful to patients as you might think.

For many patients around the country, the biggest pain when it comes to overall health is often the cost that comes in the mail weeks after treatment. A new federal mandate now requires all hospitals to post their prices online. It’s a process that St. Joseph’s Candler Chief Financial Officer Gregory Schaack says took them several months.

“So, we’ve got our standard room and board charges posted and then some of the more common charges - imaging, lab, therapies, physical therapy," Schaack said.

It’s all part of new plan driven by the Health and Human Services Department - aiming to make healthcare costs more transparent while improving quality and competition.

“The government is really trying to stimulate competition. I don’t know how posting charges is really going to do that," he said.

He says insurance companies contract with hospitals about how much they are willing to pay, and it varies from hospital to hospital, so even if two hospitals list the same price for a procedure, you could still end up paying more at one hospital.

“Charges don’t really mean a whole lot to the consumer in terms of what they will end up paying. What we get paid, and ultimately, what a patient’s financial responsibility is, is dependent upon our contract with the insurance company," Schaack said.

He says patients can still shop around and get those price quotes ahead of time by calling the hospital or their insurance company.

WTOC: “Do you think you’re going start seeing more people shopping for services?"

Schaak: “I think so. I don’t think this tool is that the federal government has had us put out, is the thing that’s going to push that along though. I think just consumerism in general and the baby boomers, and everyone using their cell phone and using their computer and using those tools - and we encourage that - we want people to know what their financial obligation is going to be before they have their service.”

You should know, hospitals have always been required to disclose pricing information, but they haven’t been required to post it online until now.

Officials at Memorial Health also recommend that patients call their insurance company or consult with one of their financial advisors first so that you can get a better idea of what you will be paying.

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