Over the course of a single year, hospitals charged noticeably more for a range of standard procedures, the New York Times finds. Medicare data show that for 91 of 98 common ailments, hospitals' 2012 prices increased more than the rate of inflation from a year earlier: Chest pain charges jumped 10%, while digestive procedures jumped 8.5%. At the same time, Medicare boosted payment rates by 1%, and inflation was 2%, the Times reports. Meanwhile, amid a push for hospitals to focus on cheaper outpatient care, the number of Medicare patients hospitalized for these 98 ailments fell from 7.5 million to 7.2 million.
Charges for the procedures swung widely from hospital to hospital, and the rise in price at some hospitals was particularly notable: one Florida facility, for instance, more than doubled its price for irregular heartbeat treatment, to a cost of almost $54,000. Why the price hikes? One explanation is hospital mergers following ObamaCare; another cost driver is the expense of shifting to electronic medical records. Still, more broadly, "it just isn’t clear what has gone into the increase in hospital charges for the past decade," says an expert. Click for the entire piece.