The federal government released data today showing what hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure. The 2011 data includes bills submitted by 3,300 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed treatments. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs.
The data is available on the AHCJ website. A webinar for AHCJ members on using the data will take place today at 2 p.m. ET with Jonathan Blum, the acting principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Karl Stark, AHCJ vice president and Philadelphia Inquirer health editor. Register here.
More on medical costs
The cost of medicines, devices, tests and treatment is such an important element of health reporting that it is included in AHCJ’s Statement of Principles: “Strive to include information about cost and insurance coverage in any reporting of new ideas in medicine.”
Brenda Goodman, AHCJ’s topic leader on covering medical studies says that the runaway costs of such things are arguably one of the most important issues in medicine, but it’s one that’s often missing from health stories.
Michael Schroeder, who covers health for Angie’s List Magazine, is required to include meaningful medical pricing information in his stories. He acknowledges this is no simple task but urges reporters to have a strategy and be persistent. “You won’t always get the information you’re after, but your batting average will certainly go up, and you won’t be left to routinely settle for hollow numbers.”
To that end, Goodman and Schroeder have contributed tip sheets to help reporters get that vital information. Goodman focuses on several resources where you might find pricing information, while Schroeder shares his strategy and the specific questions he asks sources about costs.
For more on using data to report on health care, journalists are invited to tap into health data in a special workshop, Oct. 3 & 4 in Anaheim, Calif.
This AHCJ workshop offers something for data newcomers and veterans – from spreadsheet basics to visualizing data online. You’ll come away with skills and ideas on teasing stories out of datasets and tools on presenting these stories.