Miami Children's Hospital Sheds Light On Upfront Costs

fromWLRN

Every hospital has a price list but it is hard for the average consumer to figure out what a hospital really charges for care. Traditionally, the price on that list is nowhere near what it actually expects you or an insurance company to pay.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We've got health care news from two states now. In a minute, a story about how the Republican-led state of Michigan came to embrace a key part of the Affordable Care Act. Let's go first to Florida, where Miami Children's Hospital is embarking on a new era of clarity on what its health care costs. It's going recalculate its charges and make that information public. As WLRN's Sammy Mack reports, the hospital wants to make it easier for consumers to make good health care choices.

SAMMY MACK, BYLINE: Every hospital has a price list, but it's hard for the average consumer to figure out what a hospital really charges for care. Traditionally, the price on that list is nowhere near what it actually expects you or an insurance company to pay.

TIM BIRKENSTOCK: It's very misleading.

MACK: Tim Birkenstock is chief financial officer for Miami Children's Hospital.

BIRKENSTOCK: It is the equivalent of the sticker price on a car, or some other starting point for a conversation. But it certainly doesn't represent the answer to the question most of our families want to know, and that's: What's this going to cost me?

MACK: Birkenstock says the new list of prices will be closer to what the hospital really expects to be paid, which, he says, helps parents make decisions for their children even if they already have insurance. There are six children's hospitals in South Florida, and so far, this is the first one to announce it's rewriting its prices. Helen Darling heads the National Business Group on Health. It represents nearly 400 of the country's largest employers providing health insurance. She says she's impressed.

HELEN DARLING: Good for them for doing that, and wanting to help move the field towards, sort of, reasonableness.

MACK: Miami Children's and other hospitals have said they can't release the actual reimbursement rate, because insurance companies require nondisclosure agreements in their contracts. But Birkenstock says this is one step towards more transparent pricing. For NPR News, I'm Sammy Mack, in Miami.

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