Posted hospital prices can cause confusion, Sentara officials say

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) —  A new federal rule that went into effect at the beginning of this year is requiring all hospitals to post a master list of prices for the services they provide.

“This really represents a first step at the hospital level to provide transparency. It’s a regulation that was required by the Medicare system as part of the annual update and price changes from the Medicare system,” explained Sentara Chief Financial Officer Robert Broermann.

However, Broermann says in its current form, it’s not as helpful as you’d think.

“I think it has more potential to be confusing at this point and it’s the reason that we are trying to get out there and let folks know that this is a requirement,” he explained.

Through Sentara’s website you can now find what’s called a chargemaster, which is a list of gross charges for each and every service provided.

The abbreviations are nearly cryptic for people without medical knowledge and in most cases Broermann says these costs don’t add up to what you’ll actually pay.

He says that’s because it doesn’t reflect the discounted prices negotiated with insurance companies or financial assistance programs for people without insurance

“For instance at a hotel when you close the door of your hotel there’s a required disclosure regarding what the maximum rate may be for a night at the hotel that doesn’t give you the best information because it doesn’t give you an estimate of what you might actually pay through various sources, internet sites, frequent stayer clubs, etc,” he stated.

Senior Vice President of System Development Vicky Gray says Sentara is already working to simplify the process. 

“We are really encouraging and working with members of the General Assembly to adopt these new ways of finding cost transparency and encourage people to go to the insurance sites if you have insurance,” said Gray.  

Sentara Healthcare officials recently walked 10 On Your Side through the way to find the newly posted online costs. The video above shows that process.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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