Federal rule requires hospitals to post costs


As part of a new federal rule, Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and other hospitals across the country will post their cost of standard services, allowing patients to view and compare the cost of care.

The rule takes effect Tuesday and initially was part of the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010. It wasn’t, however, implemented until it received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services earlier this year.

Julie Idlewine, a marketing specialist with Schneck, said costs will be accessible from the hospital’s website under billing information, which will provide access to its chargemaster list.

Idlewine said the hospital welcomes transparency because it’s an important part of the future of health care, but she said the prices will not include an accurate estimate of care.

“We want to be as transparent as possible to make sure that our patients and our community can get an accurate assessment of what our fees are,” she said. “While we are more than willing to place our charge master on our website, it is not a good or accurate way to estimate care.”

The prices will only include basic prices for standard items but not variables that affect final costs to patients, Idlewine said. Prices listed on the site won’t take into account the patient’s insurance, details about the procedure, supplies needed and other information.

For example, the hospital will show a CT scan with and without contrast. That makes a big difference in price, but it will include the cost without insurance and other details. When patients view that information, they may not know what all will be included during that test, Idlewine said.

“Unless the patient knows exactly what they’re going to need, they’re really not going to be able to estimate that cost of care,” she said. “Each procedure is different and tailored to the patient, so the cost will vary slightly.”

That’s why the hospital has insurance specialists to help patients navigate through that information — which can include what is ordered by their physician — to get a better idea of what it will cost.

“We can take that with the special codes and be able to give them a much more accurate estimation of their cost,” Idlewine said.

Schneck has done that for patients for some time, Idlewine said. Staff at Schneck use a program that takes into account insurance and what physicians have ordered to give an accurate price.

“That’s been available for patients before,” she said. “We do it all the time. We will continue to do that.”

It’s unclear whether the law will lower prices of health care with the information becoming easier to access by the public.

Debbie Mann, vice president of finance for Schneck, said the hospital already looks at costs from hospitals of similar size around the state to analyze.

“Schneck compares the average charge per case to aggregated, statewide data proved by the Indiana Hospital Association,” she said. “We review our average cost for care and compare it to peer hospitals of similar size and statewide to ensure we are providing quality care at a price that is a comparable level to other hospitals.”

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View costs of standard services at Schneck Medical Center at schneckmed.org.

Go to “Billing information” and look for the “Chargemaster” tab to view prices.

Patients also may use mycareinsight.org to compare prices from hospitals across the state.

For help in getting a more accurate cost from staff, call 812-522-0186 or 812-522-0188.


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