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Chargemasters full of ‘medical gobbledygook’ | Record Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY — The cost of health care is a major concern for millions across the U.S., and in a world where information readily is available at a person’s fingertips, the call for greater price transparency is increasing.

A new rule that went into effect Jan. 1 requires hospitals to post a list online of their current standard charges for items and services.

It must be in a machine readable format and updated at least annually.

The rule updates a section of the Public Health Service Act set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, it aims to improve the transparency of hospital charges.

Price lists most often are in the form of a chargemaster and contain thousands of entries with costs that vary widely hospital to hospital.

But they’re not a good way to determine actual costs, hospital administration and insurance companies warn. They also advise against using the chargemaster to comparison shop.

Take an MRI of the brain with contrast: It’s listed as $3,016.20 at Munson Medical Center; $2,673.50 at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center; $2,280.30 at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital; or $2,083.08 at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

“What a patient will see online as a chargemaster price, that is not what a patient will pay out of pocket,” said Dianne Michalek, vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Munson Healthcare. “Just because a hospital charges a higher price doesn’t mean the patient will pay higher.”

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Chargemasters full of ‘medical gobbledygook’ | Local News | record-eagle.com.

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