The patchworked result of an MVA, Franken-knee has already cost me (and various insurers) a pretty penny. So it's reasonable to wonder how much more me and the ol' insurance card will be shelling out (approximately) for a major joint replacement surgery.
Now, I could spend many moons beating my head against the wall trying to make sense of old billing statements from MD/DC hospitals.
Or I can pony up, jump on the healthcare consumerism bandwagon, comparison shop and arrange for a little medical tourism. Where would I consider heading for a TKR? West Virginia.
I'm in good company - WVa Governor Manchin had knee replacement surgery last year.
And you read that right - ol' WVa shot to the top of my list this week (top 10 at least) when I read this article by Eric Eyre, published in The Charleston Gazette and summarized in the Health IT Strategist daily HITS e-newsletter.
With five minutes (or less) of web browsing, I can find out how much a 'common' major joint replacement surgery may cost (an 'average' price, not an 'exact' one) at hospitals across the state.
The West Virginia Healthcare Authority developed the list of procedures and pricing, complete with hospital websites and phone numbers. It's easy to use (and also a bit addictive).
Why publish this information? According to CompareCareWV the number one reason is that "consumers are requesting it." Click here to read the complete info section for health professionals.
Although the site doesn't currently include quality ratings (just links to outside sources reporting QRs like Leapfrog, WVa Hospital Association, and AHRQ), WVHA plans to add these later.
Here are the steps I followed to get a very rough major joint replacement 'quote' of "Average Total Charges" ranging from $21,356.00 (St. Joseph's Buckhannon) to $47,070.00 (Raleigh General).
That's a difference of $25, 714. Click here to view my results.
1. Visit www.comparecarewv.gov.
2. Choose either "Procedure" or "Hospital" from the opening paragraph - click through.
3. I chose "Procedure," and then selected "Muscles, Bones, and Joints" from the dropdown menu under "condition, body part, or system affected."
4. I chose "Major Joint Replacement" for "specific medical service" (another dropdown menu - it didn't allow me to specify shoulder, knee, hip, etc).
5. I entered my zip code (outside WVa), clicked on the circle for "any" distance away, and then selected "all" the hospitals that appeared in dropdown menu 4, "Select WV Hospitals by Name."
Where is the data coming from?
"The average gross charge is calculated from State payor claims data including PEIA, Medicaid and other state payors. We have utilized publicly available claims grouping software tools to aggregate procedures to commonly termed reimbursed items. These groupers include the CMS Diagnosis Related Group (DRG) grouper and the AHRQ Clinical Classification Software (CCS) grouper.
Data are dependent on the accuracy and completeness of the data submitted by the payors. Data collection may not be the same for all payors. There may be some variability in assigning diagnoses and categorizing the amounts for the claims."What should facilities expect as a result?
"Facilities may receive inquiry about gross charges from consumers or other professionals. These contacts may be an opportunity to expand the patient base or to initiate patient services activity within the revenue cycle. Providers can view this publication as a tool to assist patients and professionals with decision making."
How does your hospital's pricing transparency compare?
If an entire state can mobilize resources to make this data available, can't you?