A new study has found that Nevada hospital patients on average are billed three times as much as it costs for hospitals to provide them treatment or medicine.
The Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy study found
Nevada ranked seventh among states in fiscal 2003-04, in marking up
bills over actual costs by an average 296 percent. That means the
hospital sent out a bill for $396 for care that cost $100.
"The result is that more people than ever are priced out of
access to care," said California Nurses Association President
Deborah Burger, whose organization commissioned the study.
Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses
Association, said the most profitable of 4,200 hospitals studied
nationally were generally those that marked up charges the most.
But Rick Plummer, a spokesman for the Valley Health System, said
the marked up - or billed charge - has little to do with the
reimbursement hospitals actually get or the profits they make.
"Hospitals get paid on a small percentage of billable
charges," said Plummer, whose company operates Spring Valley,
Desert Springs, Valley and Summerlin hospitals in southern Nevada.
Plummer said medical costs continue to rise along with the
number of patients who don't pay their bills, and charges are high
partly because there are so many uninsured patients in the state.
"If you go into the emergency room and don't have insurance,
the next five people behind you will be paying your bill," Plummer
said. "It's the same as a retail store. When someone shoplifts,
everyone else pays for it."
Typically, businesses or insurance companies negotiate to pay a
small percentage of the billed hospital charges. As a result,
larger entities get the steepest discounts, according to Bill
Welch, president of the Nevada Hospital Association.
Nevada State Medical Association Executive Director Larry
Matheis said the hospitals use the billed charges as the baseline
when they negotiate with businesses and insurance companies that
are seeking discounts.
"In most cases, the small guy pays higher than the big guy and
the uninsured guy pays the highest," Matheis said.