hospitals charging Medicare different prices for same procedure - WRBL

Hospitals charging Medicare different prices for same procedure

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LaGRANGE, Ga. -

Hospitals across the country are charging Medicare different prices for the same in-patient procedures.

Four hospitals in the Muscogee County area were surveyed to see how much they charge to treat a heart attack and some big price differences were found.

During an emergency people tend to think about the closest hospital, not the cheapest. In November Roger Stephens suffered one of the most severe heart attacks. He woke up, feeling tightness in his neck, but didn't pay it much attention. It wasn't until he went to a health clinic that he knew what was going on. "They said I had a widow maker and normally I wouldn't be here except for the quick response time."

Stephens was rushed to West Georgia Health in LaGrange where he received an angioplasty and a stint. He is currently undergoing physical therapy there.

He's covered under Medicare and supplemental insurance, but the total cost of the hospital visits weren't cheap.

Knowing the cost of services in advance could mean less money-stress for patients during the recovery process.

Out of the four hospitals in the Muscogee County area, the Medical Center in Columbus charges the most to treat a heart attack. They charge $51,715.71. About three miles away though at St. Francis, they charge only $ 28,007.28. West Georgia Health charges $27,237.56. East Alabama Medical Center has the lowest price at $19,253.69.

The Medical Center released a statement Thursday and said prices are complex issues and can be impacted by several factors which include a patient's financial status, a hospital's geographical location, community demographics and different doctor practices.

In reference to treatment of a heart attack, the Medical Center said they have slightly sicker patients than St. Francis who with a higher average of secondary diagnoses that may require more tests and treatments and a longer hospital stay.

None of the hospitals could provide anyone for an interview Thursday about the report.

The report is part of a three-step initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services. Eighty-seven million dollars is being made available to states for pricing transparency centers around the country so the information reaches a larger amount of people.

To view the full report click here.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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