I Spy

Hospitals provide scintillating details with new online price lists.

With items ranging from a Tylenol DM capsule at Sentara Norfolk (68 cents) to the total cost for a heart transplant at VCU Medical Center ($518,000+), Virginia hospitals are now posting their prices online. The listings result from a rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that went into effect Jan. 1.

“In the Affordable Care Act of 2010, there was language related to hospitals making standard charges for items and services publicly available. This rule from CMS clarified in more specific terms what ‘publicly available’ meant: the Internet,” says Julian Walker, vice president of communications for the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association.

All Virginia hospitals have complied with the new rule—though sometimes the information is difficult to find on their websites. A Google search of “standard charges” or “chargemaster” and the name of the hospital will glean results, often presented as pages of spreadsheets.

However, Walker cautions, “Looking at a price in the abstract for a particular service isn’t necessarily indicative of what the out-of-pocket costs may be. People absolutely should be informed. They should ask for price estimates, but they should also consult with their insurance companies.” The type of insurance plan, co-pays, deductibles, coverages, and negotiated rates all play a role. VHHA.com


This article originally appeared in our December 2019 issue.

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