NBC 6 South Florida
"If you were to call a hospital, and you were to say, 'I'm going to get a total hip, what are you going to charge me?' They can't give you an answer," Dr. Salvatore Barbera said.
The bill to care for a seizure at Aventura Hospital could price out to more than $104,000, but at Westchester General Hospital, that same treatment could run to about $15,226.
Those are some of the findings of a report released this week by the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Office. The numbers are based on medical bills charged to Medicare in 2011.
"If you were to call a hospital, and you were to say, 'I'm going to get a total hip, what are you going to charge me?' They can't give you an answer," said Dr. Salvatore Barbera, a Florida International University professor and former hospital executive officer.
The uncertainty of health care charges is driven by particular rates each hospital may charge for service line items like seeing specialists or pain pills. Dr. Barbera told NBC 6 the study helps put the system on the right track.
"We need to get health care consumers more actively involved in what they're purchasing and the costs, and get them asking questions," he explained.
"When you actually make quality and cost transparent, that added level of transparency and competition does actually net produce better results for consumers," said Todd Park, an Obama administration official.
The White House released the report Wednesday. It focuses on the cost scales of the 100 most common inpatient procedures at more than 3,300 U.S. hospitals.
For example, in Broward County, the study found treatment of diabetes can total almost $29,000 at Broward Health Imperial Point – and at Plantation General Hospital, the cost was reported to be more than $10,000 higher.
There are disparities in Miami-Dade County too. The study noted that Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables charged more than $39,000 for hypertension care. A few miles away at Mercy Hospital, the cost for the same care is roughly a third of Doctors' at $13,116.
In the end, only those without health care coverage pay those rates out of pocket. Still, experts say the findings can help consumers understand the value of their healthcare dollar.
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