Tag Archives: health care costs

For AHCJ members: Updated data about hospital charges to Medicare

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

Image by Neff Conner via Flickr

Image: Neff Conner via Flickr

With an update from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data showing what hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure in 2013, AHCJ has updated its own version of the dataset that allows members to compare hospitals’ charges from one year to the next.

Last year, CMS released data files that include bills submitted by 3,500 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed inpatient conditions in 2011 and 2012. The new release includes 2013. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs and services. Continue reading

Health costs, journalism and transparency: One site opening door to price data

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

clearhealthcomHere’s a resource for health care costs – and a creative journalistic model of crowdsourcing, data collection, mapping, reporting and blogging.

ClearHealthCosts.com was started by former New York Times reporter and editor Jeanne Pinder. She received start-up funding from foundations (Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY and others listed on the website) and ClearHealthCosts now has a team of reporters and data wranglers chipping away at some of the difficult questions that patients need answered: How much is this treatment going to cost me? Can I find a better price?

It’s about shedding light on a health care cost and payment system that, to use Pinder’s word, is “opaque.” Some of what they are doing is specific to a half-dozen cities; other projects are building out nationally.

The data collected by ClearHealthCosts focuses on elective or at least nonemergency procedures such as imaging, dental work, vasectomy, walk-in clinics, screening (mammograms and colonoscopy) and blood tests. Much of the data is crowdsourced, and focused on New York area, including northern New Jersey and other suburbs; the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas; and Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio in Texas.

A recent grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation via its Prototype Fund will let ClearHealthCosts collaborate with KQED in San Francisco and KPCC/Southern California Public Radio in Los Angeles to crowdsource Califoria prices. Earlier, Pinder’s team did a crowdsourcing partnership with the Brian Lehrer Show at WNYC public radio in which hundreds of women shared mammogram payment information, and their thoughts. It led to a series of blog posts including here and here. Continue reading

Will price transparency drive up health care costs?

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

transparency-webcastWill increased price transparency in health care drive up costs? That’s what a health plan association executive suggested last week and it’s a question I’ll ask panelists during our webcast on price transparency on Thursday at 1 pm Eastern time: The cost of health care: Is transparency possible?

Once lower-paid physicians see what higher-paid doctors are charging, lower-cost doctors will demand higher rates from health insurers, David Pittman reported in MedPage Today. Quoting Dan Durham, executive vice president for policy and regulatory affairs for American’s Health Insurance Plans, Pittman wrote that by demanding higher prices, low-cost providers would drive up premiums, making coverage less affordable. Continue reading

Webcast will explore transparency in the cost of health care

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

On Jan. 1, many formerly uninsured Americans will have health insurance coverage and thus will be prepared to engage with the health care system.

But the newly insured will be like most Americans using the health care system today: They will lack the information they need about the cost of health care services and about how much of the total cost is their responsibility.

And, like most Americans, many of the newly insured will have high-deductible health plans and thus may face sticker shock when they visit and physician or hospital and learn how much they have to pay out of pocket until they reach their deductible.

This lack of price transparency is widespread in the U.S. health care system. Yet, for years, health insurers and employers have been shifting the responsibility to pay for care to consumers and employees. Clearly there is a pressing need for information on the cost of care.

AHCJ will explore these issues during a one-hour webcast on price transparency on Dec. 12 at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific). Continue reading

Give context, not equal time, to anecdotes in coverage of health reform

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, in a recent Politico op-ed, shared some thoughts on challenges in covering of the roll out of the Affordable Care Act.

Three of his main points – understanding the health law is not just a Washington story, knowing what to cover and finding solid resources to get at the facts instead of contrived “balance” – are topics we try to address on Covering Health and on the AHCJ health reform core topic site. Balance is fine – fair and essential – in complex stories where there are many points of view, different ideologies, and legitimate questions about how the health law will unfold over time.

It’s not “balance” if there is clear, solid data on a specific topic, and another side gets equal time just because they don’t like it (or because your editor insists that it get equal time).  Knowing what’s in the law, what it does and what it doesn’t do, helps us report with authority and find that balance.

The aspect I want to address here, related to the “balance” question, is what Altman calls “judgment by anecdote.” Here’s what he’s worried about: Continue reading

Snapshot of state health spending yields some surprises

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal and Louise Radnofsky did a nice package of interactive graphics and maps on state health spending. As Radnofsky noted, the high spenders are in the Northeast – but not only the Northeast. They are some rural states – but not all rural states. And Florida is up there.

It’s a fun and useful tool that gives you a snapshot of your state – and let you compare it with neighboring states or states with similar demographics.

But if you follow the work of the Dartmouth Atlas folks you’ll also know that spending doesn’t just vary by state – it varies by county, city – sometimes even neighborhood. Payment incentives is part – but only part – of the story. (They don’t explain why two hospitals in Manhattan may have such different utilization patterns, for instance). Local practice patterns, training, traditions, patient demographics all play a role.