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Ohio Hospitals Now Have To List Their Prices, But It's Complicated

Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Wikimedia Commons
Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, hospitals are required to post price lists online for everything from medications to procedures. The mandate from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services aims to increase price transparency and help patients make more informed choices.

A WOSU analysis looked at price lists for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Ohio Health Riverside Methodist Hospital and Mount Carmel West – three popular Columbus health centers.

Central Ohio struggles with chronic health issues like diabetes. Insulin price differences at the hospitals were negligible: Each hospital listed prices within $10 of one another, with an average of about $57 per dose.

Drugs like fentanyl, a pain medication, and naloxone, which treats overdoses, have wider price differentials. Fentanyl can cost anywhere from $15 at Mount Carmel West to $218 at Wexner Medical Center. Naloxone ranges from $18 to $64.

Even though hospitals are required to make their lists public, they aren’t required to standardize how procedures or pharmaceuticals are listed – there is no standard chargemaster. And the lists don’t correspond with actual out-of-pocket costs, which are determined by insurance.

“We believe that the out-of-pocket expense for the patient is really what they’re interested in,” says Sean McGlone of the Ohio Hospital Association. “We don’t believe that this chargemaster requirement really gets them that kind of information.”

For the medically literate, the list could help determine possible costs or even play a role in deciding which hospital to go to for a procedure. McGlone says, at the very least, the list can be a starting point for dialogue between providers and patients.

“What you see in many cases with hospitals posting this information on their websites is that they are including other information for a patient to reach out to the hospital’s financial assistance phone line or other resources,” he says.

The lists are available on hospital websites, usually called patient pricing lists.