NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a first-ever data report on medical cost disparities among hospitals throughout the country. The report listed the hospital, about 100 common procedures and the average Medicare charge for each. Go for a spinal fusion in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and you'll get a bill for $61,106. But head two miles downtown to Lennox Hill Hospital and you'll be billed $112,623 for the same procedure. Head another two miles down to NYU Hospitals Centers and you'll pay a whopping $122,866.
Clearly, all hospital bills are not created equal, but a few websites hope to even the playing field.
When the CMS released its report, it was a mess of hard-to-navigate numbers and figures. Then Opscost.com sprang up. The website organized the CMS's titanic spreadsheets into an easy-to-navigate interface that uses Google Maps, so you can see how much a certain procedure costs at neighboring hospitals at a glance. Users can also submit a bill directly to the website, presumably for the creators to crunch some more numbers.
hThen there's HealthCareBlueBook.com, a for-profit website which has been around since 2009. The site pulls industry data from health care providers and comes up with a "fair price" point for a user's ZIP code. The site offers more than just medical procedures, and expands into mental health, lab tests, dental and medication costs. There's also a free app for Android and iPhone, so you can get a quick look at a fair price point while in the waiting room.
And if you wanted to negotiate a price? There's a website coming out for that, too.
On the horizon, there's Doctible.com. Ajit Viswanathan, the site's co-founder, says the site's best tag line is that it's the "Priceline of health care." The site will have a free option for comparing prices, and another pay option that will use Doctible as an intermediary to negotiate with a health care provider for a lower cost.
"We are removing the discomfort of negotiating over the phone and allow users to submit their offer through our platform and connect with the providers," says Viswanathan.
It's a unique concept—users take a bill and submit it to Doctible, which in turn negotiates with the doctor. If a discount is achieved, Doctibe gets 25% of the savings realized. If the negotiation fails, and there's no discount, then Doctible charges nothing.
Many people don't know that medical bills may be able to be negotiated, and Viswanathan saw that when his brother received a $2,000 medical bill. He told his brother to call the doctor and negotiate, which resulted in a 30% deduction.
"That gave me the realization that people do not have a sense of what the costs are and medical bills are negotiable," says Viswanathan. "I wanted to build a platform and provide a service similar to what I did for my brother."
Doctible is slated to release in beta this April.
--Written by Craig Donofrio for MainStreet