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Online hospital price lists proving to be confusing for patients

There’s a good chance the bill you get in the mail won’t match any of the numbers online.

HOUSTON — After a new law went into effect January 1, hospitals are now required to have price lists posted online. It’s part of an effort to encourage patients to become better decision makers about their healthcare.

However, the prices are almost impossible for the every-day person to decipher.

Many of the procedures are broken down using medical terminology only professionals can decode. 

Harris Health has more than 8,500 procedures listed, St. Joseph Hospital lists 25,000 procedures, and Methodist lists more than 238,000 procedures online. 

“What these hospitals have done is instead of saying, 'Here’s the price for a Ford Mustang,' they’re saying 'Here’s what the steering wheel costs, here’s what the left seat costs...'” said Seth Chandler, Professor of Law at the University of Houston. 

A more user-friendly option to finding information on prices is Texas PricePoint, which is run by the Texas Hospital Association.

It allows people to compare prices of common inpatient procedures.

But there’s a good chance the bill you get in the mail won’t match any of the numbers on PricePoint or the hospitals’ own websites.

“Insurers will negotiate a big discount over these charge master prices, or they will negotiate based on what Medicare pays,” said Chandler.

Experts recommend calling the hospital or your insurance company and ask for a price estimate for your procedure.