Sticker Shock: DeGroot Breaks Down Hospital Prices

John DeGroot, infused with the Help Team's spirit, recently explored the costs of health care at our local hospitals. What he found indicates that taxpayer-subsidized "Broward Health" -- which we've been discussing a bit on the Pulp -- costs more than a lot of its private counterparts. But I'll let him tell you about that. Here's his piece:

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Sticker Shock
by John DeGroot

I got to thinking about bladder infections the other day.

Like how much would an infection Down There set me back?

Hospital-Wise.

Urinary tract infections are the sort of thing old guys think about because we pee all the time. So the cost of a Problem Down There is a fair question for an old guy, which I am.

Several weeks back, one of the Help Team staffers did a major front page piece on South Florida hospitals which encouraged readers to go the newspaper’s website to check out its online data base HOSPITAL GRADES right above another site for FIND THE CHEAPEST GAS.

I mean, if my Help Team is running around in pursuit of a cheap gallon of regular, they sure as hell should be on top of the cheapest hospital sticker price for an old guy’s Problem Down There.

But they’re not.

Because when I clicked on the Sun-Sentinel’s database, all the Help Team could tell me was that my two hospitals-of-choice have vexing issues with bed sores (Broward General) and physician-induced collapsed lungs (Imperial Point).

Oh yes.

The Help Team also reported that if I was going to die of something during a stay at one of my hospitals of choice, my death would be “as expected.”
Which, as help goes, wasn’t too helpful.

Like WHO the frack says the chances of my dying from whatever at Broward General or Imperial Point would be “as expected?”

Some godam bean-counting bureaucrat with the state?

Like that’s gonna ease my paranoia? Even though it’s been three decades since this old hippie smoked dope and got the Dark Horrors. But I digress.

Because what started all this was my interest – as a smart consumer – in the sticker price for a Problem Down There. And maybe the sticker price for a few other Big Nasties, health-wise. (*A smart consumer is what the Sentinel Help Team wants to help me become.)

Now, in helping me with it’s Help Team hospital website, the Sun-Sentinel said I’d find further health care data from the state at floridacomparecare.gov.

So I clicked on that site via the Help Team’s web page and got:

We’re sorry …the file you requested was not found on this Web site.”

Which again, was not very helpful.

Undaunted, consumer-wise, I punched in floridacomparecare.gov to see if the state could help me with the hospital sticker price for a bladder infection and …

Mother of God!

Talk about

sticker shock!

Like the hospital sticker prices I found for a bladder infection we’re right out of Happy Dan’s You-Work-You-Drive Used Car Lot.

Or, more to the point, any smart consumer with a Problem Down there had damn well better shop around before checking into a hospital to get it fixed.

For example, in using the Help Team’s Cheap Gas methodology, I found the hospital sticker price for a bladder infection in Broward County ranged from a high of $30,076 at the old Hollywood Medical Center to a low of $13,486 at the Cleveland Clinic.

Which, as they say in the sticker price game, is a real freaking SPREAD!
Trouble is, both Hollywood Medical and the Cleveland Clinic are corporately-owned For Profit hospitals – which means they’re out to make money off sick people.

So maybe Hollywood Medical is there for really, really stupid consumers with a bladder infection.

While the cost of a bladder infection at the Cleveland Clinic is a medical “loss leader” to pull in a buyer and then switch them to another product with a bigger mark-up like open heart surgery, or whatever.
Knowing this, I decided – as a smart consumer – to check out the bladder infection sticker prices at non profit charitable hospitals and government-operated tax supported health care facilities here in South Florida.
Because, as hospitals go, a smart consumer would assume a any tax-supported or non profit hospital would provide health care at a reasonable price.

WRONG!

Let’s take, for example, a simple outpatient procedure like having your tonsils cut out

Here, according to the state, are the average sticker prices for “Tonsil and Adenoid Procedures” at five south Florida hospitals dedicated to caring for the sick and the needy as tax-supported or religious “charitable” institutions:

IN BROWARD:
Broward General (public tax supported) - $12,414
Memorial Regional (public tax supported) - $5,497
Holy Cross – (charitable religious) $14,437

IN MIAMI DADE:
Jackson Memorial – (public tax supported) $3,926
Mercy Hospital – (charitable religious) $15,195
Baptist – (charitable religious) $9,329
Now there, by God, is a real heart-stopping Spread in the
average sticker price for a simple outpatient procedure that should be as easy as a brake job, medically-speaking.

Again, consider the obscene sticker price Spread for a more serious outpatient procedure called a “Simple Excision and Biopsy” (to see if you have cancer).
Broward General - $8,936
Memorial Regional - $4,353
Holy Cross – $10,424
Jackson Memorial - $2,042
Mercy Hospital – $7,623
Baptist - $3,922

The sticker shock gets even better – or worse – when you start dealing with serious health care stuff.

Like, for instance, a hospital visit for a “Simple Incision and Excision of the Breast” – which, if I were a woman, I shit sure would not feel was “simple.”
Broward General - $8,905
Memorial Regional - $6,808
Holy Cross - $11,995
Jackson Memorial - $3,319
Mercy - $11,677
Baptist - $7,651

Then there’s other really scary stuff like:
LUNG CANCER.
Broward General - $44,649
Memorial Regional - $30,270
Holy Cross - $37,941
Jackson Memorial - $35,007
Mercy Hospital - $45,105
Baptist - $54,448

DIABETES.
Broward General - $23,735
Memorial Regional - $17,190
Holy Cross - $23,620
Jackson Memorial - $15,399
Mercy Hospital - $20,404
Baptist - $20,398

PNEUMONIA
Broward General - $35,563
Memorial Regional - $23,366
Holy Cross - $31,556
Jackson Memorial - $23,896
Mercy Hospital - $32,170
Baptist - $33,852

ANGIOPLASTY (Where they Roto-Rooter clogged heart pipes.)
Broward General - $70,162
Memorial Regional - $37,582
Holy Cross - $70,197
Jackson Memorial - $56,374
Mercy Hospital - $57,141
Baptist - $72,038

Now.

Here’s where the rubber REALLY meets the road, hospital sticker price-wise. Let’s take a run-of-the mill stroke which leaves you speechless, paralyzed and drooling. Hopefully, someone will call 911 to fetch the paramedics, who come.

So now what?

How does a stroke-stricken smart consumer say to an ambulance driver, “Don’t take me to Broward General because their stroke sticker price sucks!”

Ponder that one.

Even worse, let’s say you’ve been slammed by a stroke – and have no health care insurance.

Which means the hospital’s gonna screw you for the full Stroke sticker price when it comes to the cost of saving your brain and your life.

Which really sucks, stroke-wise!

Because Broward General charges $41,717 for a stroke.

While Memorial Regional gets $30,272.

Oh yes.

All this began with my pondering the sticker price for a bladder infection as a smart consumer.

So.

Here’s the Spread (pardon the accidental word play):

URINARY TRACT INFECTION
Broward General - $26,294
Memorial Regional - $19,026
Holy Cross - $24,098
Jackson Memorial - $17,683
Mercy Hospital - $23,722
Baptist - $25,645

Which is why, if things start getting strange Down There, I’m gonna haul ass down to Miami and Jackson Memorial to get the best price – even though I live in Wilton Manors.

After all, like the Help Team says, I need to shop around if I’m gonna be a smart consumer.

Of course, all bets are off if I flop over with a heart attack and the damn EMS guys hustle me to Broward General ($52,174) instead of Memorial Regional ($33,145).

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