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Long-term impacts of differing hospital costs

The numbers from a federal report on hospital costs tell the story, and could prescribe a change in the way healthcare is delivered.  Researchers compiled Medicare data to show big differences at different hospitals, and it could have a long-term impact.

If you were treated in the hospital for pneumonia and suffered major complications, the figures show major differences from hospital to hospital.  The so-called "sticker price" at Albany Memorial is nearly $14,000.  On the other side of town, Albany Med runs up the bill to more than $42,000.

"You may be paying too much where you could get the same exact good treatments somewhere else at a much lesser cost," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)

The government report lists charges for 100 common treatments.  From Albany Memorial to Med: a $50,000 difference for heart failure and shock procedures with complications.

Dan Rinaldi, CFO of Ellis Medicine, says the numbers do not tell the whole story, and that the patient actually pays much less, "99.9 percent of the time."

"Maybe at some point in time all of these prices that we get paid will be standardized but right now they're not," Rinaldi said.  "They're based on negotiations with managed care rates, quite frankly, our rate in Schenectady might be a little bit higher.  We're the sole provider in Schenectady County."

Rinaldi also says a patient should look at quality of care.  Critics say the pricing scheme is no more than a riddle.

"There might be a silver lining in this cloud because if we could figure out who the low-cost people are, why it costs less and require the others to do it we might save a whole lot of money in healthcare," Schumer said.

Rinaldi also noted that the report does not consider charity cases performed by hospitals for patients over 300% the poverty level.  He noted that Ellis performed $15 to $16 million in charity work last year.