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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Wide variety in hospital prices in common treatments

Much of the disparity has to do with insurance coverage

The Times article on differing hospital charges for similar procedures omitted a significant reason for the disparity in pricing. [“Hospital prices vary wildly for common treatments,” NW Sunday, June 23.]

The posted charge for a procedure is the retail price. This means while insurance carriers with negotiated hospital reimbursement contracts pay a significantly reduced rate, a patient who does not have insurance can be billed the entire posted retail rate.

This two-tiered billing practice contributes significantly to the fact that most personal bankruptcies in this country are the result of astronomical medical bills. This morally questionable practice would not exist had the United States joined the rest of the developed world by providing its citizens with universal health-care coverage.

Thus, the uninsured among us should carefully shop and compare pricing for hospital services, much as they might do for car repair or a plumbing problem. This, of course, is not possible in emergency situations, so it puts the uninsured at the mercy of what may be merciless hospital billing practices.

Skylar Tennent, Tacoma

Comments | More in Health care | Topics: health care, hospital prices, insurance

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