Hospital Patients Can Now Compare Service Prices Online

ARKANSAS (KFSM) — A new federal law requires hospitals to list the cost of standard services online.

The law went into effect on January 1.

Many people said transparency is a great idea, but some were shocked by the prices listed on local hospital websites.

“The transparency is a great idea,” said Ben Selby, a Fort Smith resident. “I wish everybody was transparent like that so e know what all the prices were and I’d like to see the drug companies do that too.”

While some see the benefits, others said the lists don’t do enough to inform people.

“I don’t really worry but once I do start a family, it’s like I do want what’s best for my family, like safety and stuff,” said Fort Smith resident Samuel Ellenwood. “But it’s like, is it going to take my paycheck?”

Northwest Health put out this statement about the new requirement:

Northwest Health knows that quality, affordable healthcare is important to our patients. Our goal is – and always has been – to help patients get the care they need and we want them to understand their financial responsibility and the payment options available to them. Patients want to know how much they personally will pay out of pocket, which is something a list of charges doesn’t tell them.

Our hospital has resources available to help patients understand their financial responsibility, including insurance required co-pays and deductibles. We accept most insurance available in the community, which will generally determine a patient’s out-of-pocket payment that is far less than standard charges. For patients who have no insurance, carry out-of-network insurance, or who receive services their insurance does not cover, we offer a variety of financial assistance programs, including charity care, prompt pay discounts, and generous self-pay discounts for uninsured individuals.  We also provide eligibility screening services that can help identify the availability of resources to cover medical services, such as Medicaid. For a personalized estimate for surgical procedures, patients may call a Patient Access team member Monday-Friday at 479-757-4080 and press option 1. For outpatient testing estimates, patients may call 479-757-4135 and press option 3.

Mercy Hospital provides a list of the 50 highest volume inpatient services. The hospital released this statement:

Mercy is committed to providing information about our prices to our patients. In compliance with new regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, patients can find pricing information for Mercy hospitals on our website at https://www.mercy.net/forms/price-transparency/. Standard prices are provided for the 50 highest volume inpatient services as well as high-volume outpatient tests and treatments. Charges billed are based on actual care provided and will vary from patient to patient, depending upon differences in treatment plans, complications, services ordered by physicians and the individual patient’s health. Professional charges are billed separately by individual physicians for services such as radiology, surgery, anesthesia and laboratory. Mercy provides a personalized price estimate of standard charges and each patient’s actual out-of-pocket expenses at the time of scheduling or registration. This information may also be provided in advance upon request.

Still, some worry that it may take years to pay off hospital bills.

“My mom went through cancer. If it wasn`t for the stuff her mother was putting in for healthcare for her, even when she got married, my mom would have probably still be paying bills and stuff,” said Ellenwood.

The new rules also make it easier for patients to get copies of their medical records.

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