Hospitals lie low on price shopping

Email to a Friend

Chad Shaffer

Some hospitals have begun to post costs for elective procedures online, so consumers can comparison-shop before they make a decision. But one expert says the practice is slow to spread, because consumers aren’t asking for those numbers.

Wayne Sensor, who is the former CEO of Alegent Health, which is a 10-hospital system in Iowa and Nebraska, developed a cost calculator for patients and offered it for free to hospitals. But only a few hospitals accepted the offer, he says. Part of their hesitancy was that patients haven’t demanded to know the prices of elective procedures, he says. That’s a poor excuse, given the importance of information in a consumer-driven, health-care system like that in the United States. Sensor says he believes that consumers have a right to know what they are going to pay.

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System near New York City is among the hospitals that post costs for elective procedures, such as joint replacements, online, to help consumers to comparison-shop. As more people opt for high-deductible health insurance, or lose their coverage when they lose their jobs, hospitals need to become more transparent about costs, says Terry Lynam, who is a spokesperson for North Shore-Long Island.