27 Investigates: The cost of care

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Hospital stays often can result in bills of thousands of dollars.

A patient’s choice of hospital determines how much they will pay and some hospitals may not be following Ohio law for price disclosure. There is an Ohio law that hospitals are supposed to publish how much they’re charging patients for common procedures and the information is supposed to be available for free online.

Lawmakers wanted patients to be able to shop around for the best health care deal when they passed the law in 2006. But when 27 Investigates started investigating hospital prices, we learned that not every local hospital is following the law.

The only hospitals WKBN found in the Mahoning Valley that post their prices are Humility of Mary Health Partners, Salem Regional Medical Center, and ValleyCare Health System. 

East Liverpool City Hospital did not respond to inquiries as to whether they post their information online. ValleyCare Health System’s information was not online but now is.

State Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, was a state senator in 2006 when the bill passed and helped sponsor the law in the assembly.

“I thought it was very important that we had transparency in the billing. The process is so convoluted that people didn’t know at that time exactly what they’re paying for. It’s also important to the patient, they have to and should know exactly what they’re paying out of pocket,” Hagan said.

Click here to watch a further breakdown of area hospital prices

Click here to watch a further breakdown of area hospital prices

Prices vary greatly from hospital to hospital for common procedures.

When a healthy baby is born in Columbiana County, parents should see a bill of around $1,400. But parents whose babies are born at Trumbull County hospitals will pay twice as much. In Mahoning County hospitals, they will pay even more. The typical bill for a healthy newborn at Northside is more than $3,200.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said hospitals should be following the law.

“The Ohio law established that it’s something you must do. The bill was passed for a reason, to help give consumers the ability to price out health care,” Schiavoni said.

None of the local hospitals wanted to be interviewed for this story, but we did receive a statement from ValleyCare Health System,which owns and operates some of the most expensive hospitals in the area.

Valley Care is a for-profit health system, while Humility of Mary Health Partners is not.

“Every hospital has unique charges based on the services offered, patient population served and payer mix. It’s important to know charges are not the same as what consumers actually pay,” the statement read.

A joint replacement at ValleyCare’s Northside Hospital can cost $56,000. That is $18,000 more than HMHP’s St. Elizabeth Health Center, which also is in Mahoning County. A patient can save even more on that surgery, almost $26,000, by going to HMHP’s St. Joseph Health Center in Trumbull County.

As of Thursday afternoon, the hospitals still had not posted their prices.

Comparison Chart of common procedures at local hospitals

Trumbull Memorial Hospital data

St. Elizabeth of Youngstown data

St. Elizabeth of Boardman data

 

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