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Health, Science, Environment

Cheapest hip replacement in Missouri? Here’s a place to look that up

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An empty room at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis County.

Given the intricacies of individual insurance plans, co-pays and hospitals' calculations to determine how much to charge for care, it is no simple feat to figure out how much your health care costs. Shopping around for around for the best price in town? Even harder. But a new set of data released Wednesday by the Missouri Hospital Association might make that process a little bit easier.  

The data, which can be found at FocusOnHospitals.com, allow users to compare price and quality measures for more than 100 Missouri hospitals, all of which have released the information voluntarily. They represent 80 percent of MHA’s membership, said president Herb Kuhn. In many cases, the information goes beyond what the hospitals are already required to provide through the Affordable Care Act, he added.  

“The issue of reporting quality data has been out there for a number of years. So there’s more and more receptivity across the spectrum of hospitals and others in health care now that transparency becomes more and more a part of our daily lives,” Kuhn said.  

MHA is the trade association for the state’s hospitals, so the information selected may be rosier than the data from other sources, such as reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the independent compiler Nerdwallet.

MHA's quality outcome data, for example, control for the demographics of a hospital’s patients, which, some have argued, is more accurate. And the price data show only what a hospital charges as a sticker price, not what patients or their insurance companies may actually pay.

“The consumers are still going to have to do as much work as they did before, contacting their insurance company," said Karen Roth, the director of research for the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition. "They’re going to have to go through and try and determine what their end cost is going to be.”

But it’s a start. Since the Affordable Care Act started requiring hospitals to report readmission rates and other quality outcome data for their treatment of Medicare patients, many have seen dramatic improvements.

“There is the possibility that, if given the right incentive, that providers can do a very good job of making sure that people get the best care, and they can keep patients out of the hospital,” Roth said. “For patients, they need to know that hospitals are working to improve quality all the time.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

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