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HCA provides more cost information to patients


NASHVILLE, Tenn.--HCA Inc., the nation's largest hospital chain, is sharing out-of-pocket cost information with patients prior to admission.

Initially, Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA provided out-of-pocket cost ranges for 22 of the most common procedures administered at its 10 Dallas-area hospitals. HCA expanded the program last week to include 15 additional hospitals in San Antonio and Austin, Texas.

The pricing program will be available at all 165 HCA hospitals in 20 states by the end of June, a company spokesman said.

Because provisions of insurance contracts vary, insured patients must call and speak to an agent to obtain pricing. However, uninsured patients can view price ranges online from their local HCA hospital Web site.

The sites also provide information to uninsured patients on various charity and uninsured discount programs. Patients are also invited to call for pricing of procedures not included in HCA's published list.

HCA decided to list out-of-pocket costs rather than total costs because the hospital chain's executives felt it would be more meaningful for patients, the HCA spokesman explained.

Since HCA began providing pricing information in October, it has received 209 phone calls and 2,300 unique Web site visits, the spokesman said. The calls have been evenly split between insured and uninsured patients, he said.

HCA announced in last May that it would publicly reveal pricing information in response to President Bush's call for greater transparency in hospital costs.