On May 8, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an unprecedented initiative to provide consumers with nationwide data on what hospitals charge.  HHS explained that by providing this data it hopes that “business and consumers alike can use these data to drive decision-making and reward cost-effective provision of care.  In addition to making the data available, HHS is also planning to fund data centers to review and publicize reimbursement data in the future. 

The data set, available on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website, provides data on the 2011 charges for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals.  For each hospital, the following information is provided on the most frequently billed discharges:

  • Total number of discharges
  • Average amount charged (by the hospital)
  • Average total payments (made by Medicare to the hospital)

HHS has noted that there is substantial variability among the average amounts charged by hospitals.  “Average inpatient charges for services a hospital may provide in connection with a joint replacement range from a low of $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Okla, to a high of $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, Calif.”