A new federal law that took effect Jan. 1 requires hospitals to post their standard prices online.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said on its website, cms.gov, that the rule applies to all hospitals in the United States.
Prices are posted online but patients must still go through a number of steps to pull up the information and wade through disclaimers that mention charges can vary based on each case such as length of stay and how complicated the recovery is.
In some cases, there will be separate billing for doctors and some imaging and lab services performed at the hospital as those practitioners are considered separate from the hospital.
Michelle J. Heard, a spokeswoman for Saint Thomas’ parent company Ascension, said, “Ascension supports price transparency of our hospital services for the benefit of consumer choice and access to care for those we serve. In compliance with the CMS regulation, we have published a list of the amounts generally billed by the hospital based on the hospital’s chargemaster.
“Pricing does not reflect our financial assistance and charity care policy, and could vary by individual patient and by facility. We encourage those who are seeking or scheduling care to contact us for the pricing that is right for you.”
Vanderbilt and Saint Thomas’ websites point out that the prices listed are not what is billed to a patient’s insurance company — those totals are spelled out by contract. Deductibles and out-of-pocket charges are two factors that also apply in those cases. Both hospitals also offer some form of financial assistance for those who qualify.
Saint Thomas lists various classifications of in-patient rooms, each of which have a charge. For example, room prices labeled “4 East” range from $393.60 to $545.87; there are other room labels with separate charges. Vanderbilt’s “HC Room and Board Ranges” prices go from $3,135 to $10,560.
A routine electroencephalograph (brain scan), or EEG, at Saint Thomas costs $203.40. An EEG lasting up to one hour may cost $347.10. Additional EEG prices are listed. Vanderbilt lists its EEGs as costing between $1,040 to $16,874. Vanderbilt also lists prices for EEG accessories.
For StoneCrest, clicking on “Insured” will take you to an explanation of the billing process and suggest you contact the hospital. Clicking on “Uninsured” will take you to a list of prices for types of emergencies (heart failure, pancreatitis).
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/story-page/patients-over-paperwork.html
The links for local hospitals are:
• Vanderbilt University Medical Center: https://vanderbilthealth.com/financialassistance/53496 (You must click “I Agree” on a disclaimer and provide an email address to search for prices.)
• Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital: https://ascension.org/a-h-p-d (Click the “Select Hospital” tab and search by state and city for Saint Thomas Rutherford. You then must click “OK” on a disclaimer.)
• TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center: https://tristarstonecrest.com/patient-financial/?page_name=insurance_decision (Click on either “Uninsured” or “Insured.”)