2008 Colorado Health Care Reform Recommendations Coming to Fruition

Not all of the same medical procedures are created equally – at least not when it comes to price.

For example, a total knee joint replacement at one Colorado hospital can cost $25,000, while at another hospital the price paid can zoom to $58,000 – more than double.

But state residents now have a website they can turn to compare actual prices paid for medical procedures at different hospitals, in addition to checking out quality evaluations for how well the procedures were performed.

The site, CO Medical Price Compare, shows there is quite a distinction in prices paid for the same process at different hospitals, and it also represents the first time that the hospitals will be able to compare their costs with others, according to Colorado’s Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC).

“What is unprecedented about the site is we have actual median amounts paid by insurance companies and patients,” CIVHC economist Jonathan Mathieu told Rocky Mountain PBS I-News on Colorado State of Mind. “These are not hospital charges, which often have little to do with the amount actually paid.”

CIVHC economist Jonathan Mathieu Jonathan Mathieu

The site opened with price paid comparisons for four services, including the knee replacement, total hip joint replacement, uncomplicated vaginal birth, and cesarean birth. Nine additional services and ambulatory surgery center prices will be added by the end of the year, and more than 25 additional other services across a variety of facility types will be online next year.

This all goes back to Colorado’s 2008 Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care, which recommended that the state create an “all payer claims database” as one way of containing health care costs. The legislation based on those recommendations was signed by then Gov. Bill Ritter.

The site also includes quality information, including professional assessments of each hospital’s merit in performing the named procedure.

“Consumers can go in and shop and compare,” Mathieu said. “Basically, you check your procedure, type in your zip code and hit go, and out comes the price information. Price transparency is very, very important in helping consumers shop for care.”

Other states, including New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, have well-established costs paid indexes, he said. Quality assessments are a new wrinkle from Colorado.

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