Spectrum Health now publishing starting price tags online

BIG RAPIDS — Medical patients seeking information about the cost of their procedures can find it online, thanks to a new federal mandate which went into effect at the start of the new year.

Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals, along with every other medical center in the nation, is now required to publish “chargemasters,” or a list of starting price tags for all the procedures they offer, online for prospective patients to use.

In an effort to be transparent with customers, Spectrum Health chief financial officer Matthew Cox said, the Grand Rapids-based health center has been publishing average prices for common procedures — including childbirth, X-rays and MRIs — online since 2006. Spectrum also has published average prices from neighboring hospitals.

Therefore, the requirements from President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t catch Spectrum off-guard when they came down from Washington, D.C.

“We found out about it a few months ago and for us, it was some minor tweaking we needed to do, because we believe we are a leader in transparency across the region … we’re going above and beyond what is required by the Trump Administration,” Cox said.
Cox believes the motivation for the new mandate is growing demand from consumers to comparison-shop when considering where they will get major medical procedures done, similar to the way they shop for other major purchases.

“Medical costs are rising quickly and consuming quite a bit of peoples’ money. If you think about it, 15 years ago, you probably had a $500 or a $200 deductible and you probably went to the doctor’s office and paid a $20 co-pay and nothing else. Those types of plans have really changed. … Now, you see plans that have $5,000 deductibles and 20 percent co-pays,” he said.

“People are responsible for their health care costs now more than ever before. So, if you’re looking at having a knee replaced, and one place will do it for $20,000 and another will do it for 20 percent of that, you want to know.”

Cox said the listed price tag represents the average of everything included with a given procedure and may fluctuate depending on a person’s individual circumstances. He recommended that those interested in thoroughly comparison-shopping procedures call Spectrum and ask to speak with a financial counselor, who can help people understand their insurance benefits as well as their medical costs.

“Some people may say, ‘Well, I’m going to have an MRI.’ There’s a lot of questions there — is it an MRI with or without contrast? Is it an MRI of your knee, your back, or your neck? We can get much more precise when we have someone who understands what you’re trying to get done, as opposed to someone who is trying to do it on their own,” he said.

A file containing Spectrum’s chargemaster list can be viewed at bit.ly/2D2K1Mr.

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