RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You can compare prices online for a flight, a car, even furniture, but finding prices for medical procedures has never been easy. Most of us just wait for the bill to arrive in the mail - until now.
A sweeping new federal rule will make all prices at hospitals public for the first time. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, all hospitals in the U.S. were required to post prices online for common procedures. The rules require medical facilities to post a master list of prices that are updated once a year.
“So many patients don’t understand how much health care costs and more importantly with-in their local community prices can vary a lot,” said Jeff Rice, CEO of Healthcarebluebook.com.
Its one of a handful of online sites that help you figure out what a procedure should cost so you can find the best price. Rice says, these days, just going in-network doesn’t guarantee you a good value. He says you really need to shop around and ask a lot of questions.
“If it’s not an emergency you should call and get a price estimate before you get there and make sure that it’s a fair price. You can check that out on the sites like Health Care Bluebook to make sure you’re paying a fair price,” said Rice.
One day before the new rule takes effect, several spreadsheets were posted by local hospitals with charges for everything from bandages to drugs.
Bon Secours had its master list online and ready to go on Dec. 31.
HCAVirginia also had pricing listed before Jan. 1. Just click on the particular hospital you are interested in.
Hospitals around the country warn the prices you see may not reflect your actual bill - it all depends on rates hospitals negotiate with insurance companies.
VCU, HCAVirginia and Bon Secours all have information on their sites on how to call ahead to find out the out-of-pocket cost of a procedure.
However, before you ever open the pricing spread sheet, Bon Secours has you verify you’ve seen a warning, that the charges may not be representative of the charges you will receive on your bill.
The CEO and founder of ClearHealthCosts.com says this is a step in the right direction.
“Everybody should know what stuff costs in health care. As it stands now, you don’t know before, during or after that test or procedure what it’s going to cost you,” said Jeanne Pinder.
However, she says the new rules from the federal government don’t go far enough.
“We think CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) needs to ask hospitals to do the right thing not only by posting their list prices, but posting next to that same price that Medicare pays for that exact same service or procedure," said Pinder.