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Hospital prices vary widely for same procedures statewide – what’s a patient to do?

Black and white photograph of a hospital room with a nurse handing a mother her newborn baby.
Josemara Friorili Lemes
/
Pexels
Prices vary widely for the same procedure at hospitals statewide

A new report on hospital costs by Hearst Connecticut shows widely different prices for the same procedure at hospitals statewide. And insurers are negotiating astoundingly varied prices for – say – a C-section or an hour of critical care. To a consumer, the hospitals would appear comparable in quality and are located just miles apart.

Certainly, shopping for healthcare is different from shopping for a toaster. The price is dependent on the type of insurance plan, and the billing codes are mind boggling. Yet, in a well-functioning, competitive market, such extreme variations in comparable services would not exist – according to a Brookings report in 2020.

This hour on Where We Live, Mary Katherine Wildeman, author of the Hearst Connecticut special report, dives into patterns in the data. And the data is still hard to find – there isn’t a central searchable database where consumers can compare prices for a pre-scheduled procedure at hospitals statewide.

Also this hour on Where We Live, Vicky Veltri from the Office of Health Strategy announces a new tool that will soon become available to patients in Connecticut.

So what exactly will hospital price transparency – now required by law – accomplish? And, insurers will also have to share price information, starting July 1. Could employers begin directing their employees to make certain healthcare choices versus others?

Beyond transparency, we look at a bill that was just passed by Connecticut lawmakers that will give the state the authority to cap the rise in healthcare costs. The bill will also hold providers and insurers accountable.

GUESTS: 

Mary Katherine Wildeman: Data Reporter, Hearst Connecticut. Authored the Hearst Connecticut Special Report: “Hospital care costs are wildly different across CT. Explore the once secret data.

Vicki Veltri: Executive Director, Office of Health Strategy, State of Connecticut 

Paul Kidwell: Senior Vice President of Policy, Connecticut Hospital Association

Nick McLaughlin: Founder & CEO, BreezHealth, a Goodroot Inc. affiliated company

Where We Live is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode.

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Sujata Srinivasan is a Senior Producer for 'Where We Live,' the flagship news-based, call-in talk show from Connecticut Public Radio, featuring deep dives at the intersection of data-driven narrative and investigative long-form journalism. She's also an editor for the Connecticut Public newsroom.
Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of Connecticut Public's morning talk show, 'Where We Live.' She’s a longtime public radio reporter covering several beats including immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues, education, veterans affairs and the military.