One of the more aggravating factors about hospital care and billing is that they typically do not offer what is commonly called ‘package’ pricing, instead providing only billing statements that can run towards hundreds of individual line items, usually at wildly inflated prices. This is where you hear the stories about $1000 toothbrushes and $140 Tylenols.
It’s as though when you go the restaurant, instead of getting told the cost of a hamburger was $6, you instead got separate charges for the gas used to cook the burger, the cook’s time, the cost of the paper wrap, separate charges for the bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, a fee for someone to clear off your table after you were done, and dozens of other line items – all at a 2000% markup or more!
For self-pay patients, this common hospital practice can be financially devastating. Fortunately there are a few hospitals and surgical facilities that are embracing a more ‘all inclusive’ pricing strategy, where a single price is offered with no hidden or inflated charges. I’ve mentioned the Surgery Center of Oklahoma in the past, which offers transparent package pricing for over 100 procedures on their web site.
I’m pleased to see another hospital, this one in Tucson, Arizona, is also offering up-front package pricing. Tucson Medical Center, which offers a relatively full range of services including cardiac, maternity, orthopedic, and surgical services (no cancer, though), states their policy on their web site:
Packages are offered to self-pay patients only, not to patients covered by insurance. To receive package program rates, full payments must be received before services are performed, otherwise full charges will be billed.
Program prices do not include fees for surgeons, anesthesiologists or physicians who interpret tests or procedures. Physician fees are billed separately by the physician’s office for each procedure or test performed.
Tucson Medical Center doesn’t provide their package pricing online, which is a little disappointing, although there is a phone number to call and discuss package prices with one of their financial representatives (the link above has the phone number if you are interested in having a procedure performed at Tucson Medical Center as a self-pay patient). They also can’t give any information on physician fees, most likely because unlike the Surgery Center of Oklahoma they aren’t owned by the physicians who practice there.
It’s nice to see an option out in the West for uninsured self-pay patients who are looking for a real price for hospital-based treatments and procedures. Hopefully more hospitals and surgical facilities will follow their lead and begin offering package pricing that is all-inclusive and not based on the ludicrous billing practices that hospitals all too often engage in.