Nick Maahs, Westword
In need of an MRI scan on an arm joint? Choose your facility with caution. According to information from the Colorado All Payer Claims Database, average costs for this procedure, as well as many others, vary dramatically throughout the state, from $690 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver to $2,530 at Children’s Hospital in Aurora to $4,200 at Colorado Plains Medical Center in Fort Morgan.
What explains the variance? “That’s the million-dollar question,” says Cari Frank, a spokeswoman for Center for Improving Value in Health Care. But a new, free online tool from the Denver nonprofit will allow patients to at least compare the average price and quality of procedures.
Available on CIVHC’s website, the new tool allows users to select a service and a zip code from their page’s drop-down menu, which takes them to average prices, price ranges and patient experience ratings from a variety of facilities.
Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonprofit focused on health-care policy, says increased transparency can be a double-edged sword, with low-cost facilities citing competitors’ higher prices as a reason to raise their own. “We’ve seen some cases where bringing price transparency encourages some facilities to actually increase what they’re asking for,” he explains.
But he says CIVHC’s new tool will do more good than anything. “I think this will at least open up more conversation and questions about why costs are so high in some areas,” he explains. “I think those questions need to be asked pretty pointedly by now, because we’ve known that these affordability issues have been plaguing Coloradans for a few years now.”
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