Insured or not hospital costs vary drastically

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- A new government report confirms what many Americans suspected all along, hospitals are charging very different prices for the same procedures, not only from state to state but street to street.

“It's a head scratcher and impossible for the average person to understand,” said Geoffrey Trachtenberg, a personal injury attorney who represents clients dealing with outrageous medical bills. “The reality is where you go and what facility you chose can have a big impact on the bottom line and your financial future.”

Now for the first time, consumers have information about what hospitals are charging. However, the report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn't indicate a reason for varying costs for same procedures, and both lawmakers and patients want to know why.

“It's difficult for a consumer to know in advance which hospital is charging what price and most of us consumers are like sheep, we go where the doctors tell us to,” said Republican State Senator John McComish.

This previously secret data on hospital prices revealed some outrageous discrepancies in Arizona.

For example, if your kidneys fail and you have major complications one hospital will charge you nearly $81,000, while another will charge you $16,000.  That’s for the exact same treatment.

If you have a breathing problem and you need a ventilator, on the high end, you will pay $121,000, on the low end $23,000.

“Our consumers just don't have a clue of exactly what it's going to cost and too often we just default to the fact that insurance is going to cover it,” said Arizona House Majority Whip Rick Gray.

It's the reason why the Arizona House of Representatives is considering a bill that would streamline the prices of some 26 standard procedures.

“At the end of the day it really does matter more what the quality of care is versus what you pay for that care,” said Trachtenberg. 

Local hospital representatives explain on background that very few people actually pay these prices because insurance companies negotiate prices with hospitals and the government decides what it will reimburse for Medicaid and Medicare patients.

It is the uninsured who have to worry, and even then most hospitals are willing to negotiate.

A link to the full study can be found here.