WASHINGTON (May 8, 2013)—A government database posted online Wednesday sheds some light on the mystery of just how high a hospital bill might go and whether it's cheaper to get the same care across town.
The Department of Health and Human Services database lists what thousands of hospitals across the country charge for 100 common Medicare services and the disparities are striking.
Joint replacement prices, for example, range from about $5,000 at a hospital in Ada, Okla., to about $220,000 in Monterey Park, Calif.
Charges at hospitals in the same cities also vary widely.
Medicare and insurance companies negotiate lower rates than these "list prices."
But the prices can affect the co-pays that hit insured patients.
Releasing the information may put pressure on hospitals to lower charges that are out of line.
“Currently, consumers don’t know what a hospital is charging them or their insurance company for a given procedure, like a knee replacement, or how much of a price difference there is at different hospitals, even within the same city,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
“This data and new data centers will help fill that gap.”