Hospital cost and insurance premium comparison data up

With rising co-pays, consumers can literally save thousands of dollars by comparing prices at different hospitals. Here’s the state makes it a little easier.

The report examines the prices paid by private health plans for commercially insured members in three service categories: inpatient hospital care, outpatient hospital care, and physician and other professional services. In each category, a sample of high-volume health care services was selected to maximize comparability across providers.

Heart attack? It will cost you $19,000 at UMass Medical and less than $10 at South Shore Hospital.

Hip replacement? $21K at Mt. Auburn in Cambridge and $27 across the river at the Brigham, which has a much nicer lobby.

The second half of the reports compares the list price to the amount Medicaid pays —  rates that hospitals routinely say don’t cover theirs costs. Still, be aware that these are hospital prices, not costs. In other words, this is the sticker price, not the actual cost of delivering the service. So, theses numbers don’t reflect the actual differential.

Comparing health plans can be a little trickier, but the state is also offering data comparing premiums. Here are a few of the highlights:

From 2007 to 2009, private group health insurance premiums in Massachusetts increased roughly 5 to 10 percent annually, when adjusted for benefits. This comparesto consumer price index (CPI-U) increases(for all goods and services) averaging 1.7 percent annually over the same time period nationwide and 2.0 percent in the Northeast.

On average, the level of benefits covered by private group health insurance has declined and member cost-sharing has increased.

 – Deductibles and copayments generally increased from 2007 to 2009. For example, in the small group sector, the inpatient copayment in the most popular HMO plan increased from $500 to $1,000.

— Among small groups, average benefits decreased 3.6 percent from 2007 to 2008 and 6.6 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Do you get what you pay for? BHN is about to start posting links to different data bases so you can do a little research. Got something to say?  The state plans to hold hearings at the end of the month.

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