Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

RST: How do hospitals calculate their prices?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 17, 2013 2:45 PM

What to look for on Radio Smart Talk, Thursday, July 18:

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The cost of and spending on healthcare continue to rise and increase beyond the average rate of inflation.

There are many theories why, but one of the questions that often go unanswered is why does healthcare cost what it does, especially at hospitals?

Healthcare is undergoing significant changes today.  witf's Transforming Health initiative has documented many of those changes.  One major difference from the past is consumers are being encouraged to shop for the best prices.  Traditionally, that hasn't been easy.  More information is becoming available, but even then would-be patients may be confused by the wide disparity in prices.

For example, the average bill for treatment of chest pain that is not caused by heart disease is $12,585 at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  At the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, the bill for the same procedure is $25,557.  Insurance pays a lot less than those figures though -- $4,901 at Hershey and $5,102 at Geisinger.  That's just one example but there are many more.

On Thursday's Radio Smart Talk, we'll examine why hospital costs are what they are.

Appearing on the program will be Martin Ciccocioppo of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and Joe Martin of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

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Martin Ciccocioppo and Joe Martin



Compare hospital prices and bills on this Washington Post website.

TIME magazine's Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-18 08:20

    Fran in Lancaster writes:

    My question is related to the costs of specialists & hospitals together. How do (or can) hospitals and specialists work together when informing consumers about the potential costs involved in performing procedures?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-18 08:25

    Michael writes:

    If a provider does not disclose the costs prior to providing a service, how can they legally bind the consumer to the "bill"?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-18 08:43

    Melissa writes:

    Let's be clear. Uncompensated care is the same as FREE medical care. Yes, hospitals give FREE medical care everyday. Let's make sure everyone is insured so we can stop redistributing the cost of this free care.

  • Angela img 2013-07-18 08:57

    The gentleman who went to the ER and the doc was out of network: he can simply appeal based on "hidden provider". The hospital was in network and he was in an emergency situation. He could not clear who was treating him.

    • pablo999a img 2013-07-18 09:32

      Great information. Thanks.

      How do you appeal? And to whom? The hospital? The doctor who never announced he was an out-of-network provider? The insurance company that only paid the standard in-provider fee?

  • Dale img 2013-07-18 14:16

    Though I’ve already shared my two cents today, there is one more point which disturbs me even more than the three or four I mentioned on air. Many of those who advocate for the present system, who believe it’s spiraling costs are inevitable, contend that it is patients who need to be better informed—that being proactive will result in an optimal experience when illness strikes. What that seems to imply is that health care problems reside mainly with ill-informed patients, as if this were some sort of crisis stemming from simple economics, or making wiser choices and good financial decisions. Unfortunately, it’s not a mere economic dilemma, like how much do I want to spend a new pair of shoes—often it’s an issue of life and death. The idea that anything as fundamental as health care has become unattainable for so many Americans because of arbitrary costs which have little, or nothing, to do with quality of care, a point I addressed this morning, is ludicrous. Our health care system most certainly is a broken system when we allow the priority or profits to subvert the essential purpose of such a vital service. That even one citizen in a wealthy country like America would be denied basic resources for health on the basis of price fixing (i.e. the chargemaster) is unconscionable. The problem remains as long as we delude ourselves to think it is about ‘how’ to pay rather than ‘why’ we pay such ridiculous costs.

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