Tri-State hospital charges included in formerly secret database

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Tri-State hospitals are included in a new database the Obama Administration is making public that shows how much they charge when treating patients with the 100 most common health issues including hypertension, heart attacks, and pneumonia. For years, American hospitals have kept secret lists called charge masters, a menu of items and machines used (everything from an aspirin to an EKG) and how much the hospital charges for them. However, the public never got to see them.

Now the Obama Administration is lifting the veil off of some of this information. The Department of Health and Human Services' website on Wednesday morning began listing what one hospital charges versus another.

For instance, FOX19 found that someone suffering from hypertension would be charged $14,340 at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati and $12,408 at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, according to the database. However, if the patient is on Medicare, the amount of money the hospitals receive is dramatically cut. And in the end, Jewish Hospital receives less money for this treatment than UC Medical Center. While Medicare will pay Jewish Hospital $3,862 to treat a patient with hypertension it will pay UC Medical Center $6,428. That's a 40% difference.

But a note to users of the database says the amount charged "will vary from hospital to hospital because of differences in hospital charge structures." It also says the amount of money the hospital ends-up receiving also varies depending on the number of similar diagnoses the hospital treats and whether it's a teaching institution, which get higher payments from Medicare.

The disparity in prices is really stark when you take a look at prices in different parts of the country. Joint replacement prices range from about $5,000 at an Ada, Oklahoma, hospital to about $220,000 in Monterey Park, California.

Of course, Medicare and your insurance company never pay the full price. They negotiate it down. But the full price does affect people without insurance who don't have the clout to negotiate with a hospital. What's on the charge master can also affect people who do have insurance by influencing the amount they're charged in co-pays when they have to go to the hospital.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.