New information released by the federal government shows that some hospitals are charging a lot more money than others for the exact same procedure.
According to the data from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, if you go to United Regional Hospital to get treated for bronchitis or asthma, the hospital will charge an average of $112,000. But if you got treated for the same thing at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, TX, the charge will be almost $44,000. That's a difference of about $68,000.
"There's no question that charges vary significantly from hospital to hospital but more importantly, from patient to patient, from procedure to procedure," said Phyllis Cowling, United Regional Hospital's President and CEO.
The information from CMS shows how 3,300 hospitals in the country are charging Medicare very different amounts for the same procedure. Lets look at another example. If you get treated for gastrointestinal problems, United Regional charges about $41,000 less than Covenant.
United Regional's President and CEO says there are several reasons why charges can vary from hospital to hospital.
"It's not so much the price of any individual test or procedure that gets done. It has to do with how many, what type and what combination of tests and procedures that may be done," said Cowling.
It also depends on the length of a patient's hospitalization, staffing costs and what medical conditions the patient might have.
Cowling says, "If that person is diabetic, there might be some additional procedures or services that are provided to the diabetic person versus the non-diabetic patient."
But Cowling says not many people pay the full charges even if they're not insured.
"A couple of things we did, we expanded our qualification for charity care and the patients that qualify for charity care may not have to pay anything regardless of what the charges are," said Cowling.
Based on information gathered from 2011 and 2012, United Regional's average charges were less than the overall average of similar hospitals in Texas.
United Regional's CEO says the charges have very little impact on medicare patients because Medicare pays based on a pre-established rate.
If you would like to see all the data released by CMS or the specific charges of hospitals in Texas, you can click on these links: