NEW ORLEANS — Hospitals are supposed to post the cost of surgeries, procedures and supplies online.
That started when a new law went into effect last year. It's so you can compare prices, but some groups say that is not happening.
Debra Campbell is a caretaker. She has a son with disabilities and her mother just got out of the hospital. She worries about medical costs.
“We need a change in the system,” said Debra Campbell, Executive Director and Chairperson for A Community Voice, Upper 9th Ward Chapter.
She is part of three groups, including ACORN, that are calling for more transparency in knowing upfront what hospitals will charge before you get the bill. They say many are not following a regulation started a year ago in January, to list costs of procedures on their web sites.
“We found that in Louisiana, only 42 percent of hospitals make this tool actually accessible to consumers. In New Orleans, of the 23 hospitals we looked at, it was only 48 percent that actually have accessible online tools,” said David Thompson, Research Director for ACORN International.
“In one location, a Cesarean section cost $9,000, whereas in another institution, the same Cesarean section cost is $165,000,” Campbell said.
“There's no way a consumer can make an informed decision if everyone is using different coding procedures, everyone is using different price arrangements that they've made with insurance companies,” said Wade Rathke, Chief Organizer of ACORN International.
One of the largest health care providers in the state, Ochsner Health, says it is in compliance with the regulation. It has an online estimator tool, and a helpline for personal questions in its central pricing office.
But this group also says Louisiana hospitals dedicate only around one percent to charity, whereas in Texas and Arkansas, it's four percent. And they charge more.
"In Arkansas and Texas we found, as you might expect, that for profit charged the most, but in Louisiana, nonprofits actually came out ahead of the for profits,” Thompson said.
And while the group pushes for more online transparency, hospitals say their patient online portals, are there for you to ask questions.