UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect Presbyterian responding to KRQE News 13’s request for comment.
A new federal mandate means hospitals across the nation have to post their prices online, seemingly giving patients a better idea to how much any given procedure costs.
A cast for a broken arm could run you $500. A heart valve replacement? $34,000. These numbers come from some of New Mexico’s biggest hospitals. But can patients really rely on them?
“It’s like the sticker price on a car. It’s not what you’re actually going to pay,” Kristina Fisher of Think New Mexico said.
At UNMH, a c-section will run reportedly you about $2,800. A couple of miles away at Presbyterian, it’s more than $5,000. At least, that’s what the price list says. However, every hospital’s website with these numbers has several disclaimers.
“Unfortunately, it’s not actually going to provide patients with useful information, because almost no one pays the price that hospitals charge for medical care,” Fisher said. “Those prices are just a starting point for negotiation and every insurance company negotiates a difference price.”
Think New Mexico worked with state lawmakers to launch a website last year that compares Medicaid costs for procedures at hospitals around the state. Now, the group wants all patients to have this useful information at their fingertips.
“Some states have started collecting data on the actual prices being paid for healthcare by everybody, and we’re going to push New Mexico to do that, so then we can say, ‘If you’re with Blue Cross Blue Shield, and you want to get a hip transplant at this hospital, what’s the average price you can expect to pay?'” she said.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Presbyterian, Lovelace and UNMH.
Lovelace sent KRQE News 13 this statement:
While we support greater transparency around hospital pricing, billing for medical services is a complex issue and the information hospitals are required to post provides only a snapshot of a much larger picture. We urge patients to use the information posted on our website and other hospital websites as a starting point for determining their financial responsibility. It’s important to know these prices listed represent the hospital’s gross charges for a service and do not include discounts negotiated by insurance companies or those provided to qualifying self-pay patients, therefore, in most cases, the patient’s financial responsibility for these services is much lower than the posted price.
UNMH directed us to the New Mexico Hospital Association, which echoed Lovelace, but also said this mandate isn’t bogus.
Presbyterian also directed us to the NMHA.
“I think it’s helpful for consumers, it’s helpful for the general public, it’s helpful for policymakers… it’s also helpful for hospitals and providers to be able to compare and get a sense of where they stand,” Jeff Dye, the President of NMHA, said.
Think New Mexico will be teaming up with lawmakers again this upcoming session to push for a database with more accurate hospital prices for all New Mexico.
For a link to each hospital’s price list, see below: