CHICAGO (CBS) — How much would it cost to get a cast on your leg, or get an MRI? Effective Jan. 1, you should be able to tell just by going to the hospital’s website. However, CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker discovered those price lists are sometimes hard to find, and often confusing.
With the help of AARP consumer advocate Courtney Hedderman, CBS 2 tried to find the price list of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Chicago, and came up empty-handed.
After reaching out to their public relations office, we were told the price list is on the website under the “locations” tab. You have to click on a specific hospital on that list, and there’s a “menu of services” at the bottom of that hospital’s page.
We also could not find a list on the Roseland Community Hospital website.
However, using a Google search and a few keywords, we did find a price list at Rush University Medical Center.
At Rush, the list was long and thorough, but at Loretto Hospital’s website, the list was very small.
At the University of Chicago Medicine website, the list was difficult to navigate and search.
On Rush’s website, searching the list was easy.
Comparing costs, we found another issue: major variations.
Getting a cast from the knee down at Rush costs $435, more than $600 less than at Advocate Christ Medical Center, where it costs $1,060.
Need an MRI on your elbow? There’s a $423 difference between Rush and Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
One hour of chemotherapy at Stroger Hospital costs $517, but at Advocate Christ, it costs $1,540.
Hedderman said she could only speculate why prices are so different from one hospital to another.
“I would assume it might be because of their overhead, their own internal controls and accounting,” she said. “It could be they’ve negotiated with particular insurance companies.”
Hedderman said the new law mandating hospitals list prices for procedures online probably does not go far enough.
“Yes, it does list out these prices, but it is just a menu. It doesn’t take in the total costs. It doesn’t take into account individual out-of-pocket costs in a true sense. Like, what’s their co-insurance? What’s their co-pay? What’s their true out-of-pocket costs?” she said.
Most hospitals also do not list quality of care along with their price list.
“Then we might actually get to the intent of this policy, which is to have lower costs and better quality of care for folks,” Hedderman said.