Hospitals now have price estimates on websites

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Needing to go to the hospital for services? Patients can now see an estimated price online.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires hospitals to post prices on their website.

"That was required as of Jan. 1 and we have complied with that," said Bob Mueller, the vice president of revenue cycle for the St. Luke's Health System.

He said the programs parallels with a program they have, where they put their charges out with call centers and support.

"We want patients to be informed of services before they proceed with them," he said.

On the St. Luke's website, patients can go to the resources for patients and visitors tab and click on the price estimates button. On there, they can click for what region they're located in as well as what service they are thinking about.

"They required to put all of our charges as well as all of our lab charges. All of our pharmacy charges and all of our inpatient services," Mueller said.

He said the prices listed on the page are for those who don't have health insurance. There are other links for those who do have health insurance.

For Dan Munger, who recently just had surgery, he said the price estimator is a good idea.

"At least people know when you’re going in. If you buy a car and go into and get your car fixed, you get an estimate," he said. "You can get the same thing, it sounds like, with this program, so you can plan a little bit, at least."

However, this process could help some and deter others.

"It might delay some elective surgeries. Some surgeries are absolutely necessary. I think they would at least have a method to plan," Munger said.

Mueller said looking at the prices online could be daunting, so he encourages users to give them a call.

"I think some of this needs phone support and we’d encourage patients to use this tool and look at it, if they have any questions to call us, we’re happy to walk through and maybe get a more specific estimate for them," he said, adding that there could be a lot of information there, as CMS had many regulations.

"We are hopeful that patients will use it and they will be more informed and more engaged with us before they schedule services," he said.

While they have the page ready to go for users, they plan to continue to evolve it.

"We think the CMS regulations is a key step in that process, but it’s not the end of the process, but we will continue to build on as we go forward and I think that will be important for us and for our patients," he said.

If a patient has a question about a price estimate, they can call 208-814-7550.

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