PORT TOWNSEND — Costs for inpatient and emergency room care have increased at Jefferson Healthcare hospital, but the overall rise was lower than elsewhere, said officials.
“Ultimately, the net effect was a 2.1 percent increase across thousands of price codes, consisting of a slight increase to inpatient charges and flat outpatient charges,” said Hilary Whittington, chief administrative officer and chief financial officer at Jefferson Healthcare.
“Generally, hospitals increase their prices 3 to 6 percent per year, and we are very excited to have tackled this re-calibration with an aggregate increase lower than the market trend,” she said.
Jefferson Healthcare has spent the past several months analyzing the costs for its menu of services in preparation for a requirement that came into effect Jan. 1. The new rule by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) requires all hospitals to post prices online and update them annually. Previously, hospitals were required to list their standard charges and/or policies only upon request.
The resulting data led hospital officials to develop a new rate structure that is now available to patients online at www.jeffersonhealthcare.org.
Whittington said the hospital compared prices with 10 hospitals, including Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, and several in the Seattle and Tacoma areas, and set prices that were no higher than the median charge.
“In several areas, we decreased prices significantly, and also took the opportunity to streamline prices across service lines and locations,” Whittington said.
“One of the primary areas where we were low compared to the market was in our inpatient pricing,” she said.
”Overall, prices in those service lines received an aggregate 8 percent increase, with increases and decreases assigned by line item of procedure/service, mostly related to surgery.”
Whittington said costs for trips to the emergency room also were revised.
“Increases were also made to emergency department visit pricing to keep us in line with prices at other emergency departments,” Whittington said.
”However, a trip to the ED is almost always associated with other diagnostics like MRI, CT scans, respiratory therapy and lab work which received significant pricing decreases, on average 10-to-25 percent across these departments.
Jennifer Goodwin, director of revenue cycle operations, said that because Jefferson Healthcare is considered a rural hospital, its funding structure is a bit different from some other hospitals.
“For example, Olympic Medical Center has a different way of funding through taxation than we do,” Goodwin said. “The amount of money contributed by taxpayers is higher there.
“We have a lower tax support rate so it’s important to set rates at a sustainable level to ensure services are maintained.”
The majority of Jefferson Healthcare’s clients are an elderly population which means the focus on services is geared towards their needs.
“Because we are isolated and have primarily an elderly patient base, we provide what’s needed right here for them,” Goodwin said.
“Jefferson Healthcare is expanding its dermatology, oncology and cardiology services based on feedback. General surgery is also growing with the addition of staff. The one area of care that is deficient is ENT and Jefferson Healthcare is looking into adding that service.
“It doesn’t make sense to drive an hour or more for services since we give great care here.”
Goodwin cautions the online price menu is only an estimate of the final bill.
“Most services are a combination of prices and it may be difficult to determine a final charge because of variables that affect services. But the online price schedule will help with a ballpark estimate.
“Patient responsibility varies by payer and can include copays, coinsurance, or other patient responsibility,” she said. “Insurance companies determine the portion of the bill the member is responsible for.
“Jefferson Healthcare financial counselors are available to help understand these terms and to ensure all components are considered. We work with everyone to make sure the care they need is affordable.”
More information about the newly revised rate information is posted to the hospital’s website at www.jeffersonhealthcare.org. Go to the “Pay My Bill” tab and scroll down the page for a link to a spreadsheet with detailed information.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]