Hospitals’ costs are tricky to accurately compare, a new report demonstrates.Garfield County’s two hospitals – Grand River Medical Center in Rifle and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs – consistently cost less per hospital stay than hospitals in the Denver area, according to the Colorado Health and Hospital Association’s 2004 report. But that conclusion is deceiving. Not apples to applesTake, for example, the average cost for an appendectomy at Valley View Hospital. According to the report, an appendectomy in Glenwood, including all moderate to major cases, averages $9,991, with patients staying in the hospital an average of two days. The cost for a Grand River Medical Center appendectomy, according to the report, averages $14,800, with patients staying at the medical center for 2.4 days. But Pat Howery, Grand River’s chief executive officer, said that figure is wrong. According to the medical center’s figures, the correct amount is $9,607, which includes anesthesia. Howery said CHHA doesn’t report on DRGs – that is, diagnostic related groups – in the same way that Grand River does, which causes discrepancies in the figures they report, and causes inaccurate numbers and comparisons throughout the report.”You’re never comparing apples to apples in CHHA’s report,” he said. “We’d like to have a conversation with the association. This report doesn’t reflect reality.”At Denver metro-area’s 15 hospitals, the average appendectomy costs $18,786, according to CHHA, and patients stay in the hospital for an average of 2.5 days. The problem with the study is that some hospitals submit all the costs associated with their care – including anesthesiology, doctor’s fees, and medications administered – while others do not, making it hard to determine what’s being counted in each hospital’s costs, as well as costs that are averaged according to regions.Medicare and Medicaid payments also affect how much patients who are self-paying or who have insurance are charged. According to the report, hospitals with a high number of Medicare or Medicaid patients must set charges high enough to recover the shortfall created when costs are not paid by these government programs. More than 70 percent of patient days spent at Grand River Medical Center in Rifle in 2003 were by patients on Medicare, according to the report, which reflects the lower Colorado River Valley’s higher number of senior citizens. That compares with a little more than 30 percent of total patient days spent at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. The numbers shift, however, when it comes to Medicaid care at the two hospitals. While a little more than 33 percent of patients at Valley View are on Medicaid, only 6.7 percent receive Medicaid for services at Grand River. Be aware of variablesHowery said he thinks the CHHA puts together the yearly report for the press that routinely jumps on it and reports findings, and for the federal government, which tracks charges nationwide. But he said costs comparisons and many reported costs are “completely inaccurate.” He said for consumers, a better way to compare pricing is to call hospitals and ask for pricing. But be careful.”Costs can be lower or higher depending on each case,” Howery said. “You might be quoted $9,000, but if there are complications in your surgery, the bill could be $24,000. You need to be aware of the variables.” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org coloradans go to the hospitalThe No. 1 reason Coloradans are hospitalized isn’t because they’re sick. It’s because women are having babies. Childbirth accounted for 110,123 visits to Colorado hospitals in 2003. After childbirth, however, there are plenty of ailments that are treated in hospitals across the state:1. Childbirth 2. Simple pneumonia3. Major joint and limb reattachment4. Uterine and related organ cancer5. Chest pain6. Heart failure7. Asthma8. Back and neck procedures9. Digestive system10. Pulmonary disease
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