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Hospitals nationwide, including Chicago area, vary widely on pricing: federal data



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Updated: June 10, 2013 2:21PM

Data released for the first time by the federal government shows that hospitals nationwide, including Illinois, varied widely in pricing for the same procedures.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday publicly released 2011 data on the amount that more than 3,000 hospitals across the country charged for the 100 most common inpatient procedures, such as heart failure and joint replacement. That includes a wide range of prices among hospitals in Chicago and the suburbs.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has collected this information for years, but only recently decided to make it public — in hopes that it would force hospitals to pay greater attention to how much competitor hospitals were paying to do the same service. The data would also help ordinary people seeking to get a better deal.

Government officials noted that some of the variation between different hospitals might reflect the fact that some patients were sicker or required longer hospitalization.

Medicare and private insurance companies usually negotiate lower charges with hospitals, so the amount that hospitals charge typically isn’t the amount that patients actually pay if they have insurance.

But the data sheds light on fees that the uninsured could pay, though they too, may not pay actually the full amount. Uninsured patients in Illinois qualify for financial assistance and charity care.

For instance, Loyola Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in suburban Melrose Park charged $97,926 for treatment of kidney failure, which was more than five times what John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County charged — $17,432, government data shows. And for other conditions like major small and large bowel procedures, Loyola Gottlieb charged the highest prices in Illinois, according to the data.

Jay Sial, chief financial officer of Loyola University Health System, noted that the data cited was from 2011, and in January 2013, a Gottlieb internal review resulted in an average 25 percent reduction in charges at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

“Loyola University Health System closely monitors charges and conducts reviews regularly to ensure that the health system is competitive in the Chicago market. Charges may be adjusted up or down based on this benchmarking,” Sial said.

A spokesman for Illinois Hospital Association said there are a number of factors that affect a hospital’s pricing, including whether a hospital has a more expensive Level 1 Trauma Center with more services than a level 2 or 3 trauma center.

For that reason, IHA spokesman, Danny Chun said, “Do not use this for comparison shopping.”

“We all agree there needs to be greater transparency....We’re all working to that,” Chun said. But he said “this database while it has some information, I would consider it raw data.”

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