Zurik: Transparency is key to ‘Cracking the Code’

Zurik: Transparency is key to ‘Cracking the Code’
Updated: Apr. 12, 2017 at 10:10 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - FOX 8 News and our partners at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune have launched a new investigative project - Cracking the Code: The Real Cost of Healthcare. Our goal: bring transparency to prices in the metro area.

In the metro New Orleans area, for example, we've found a mammogram can vary in price. If you're paying cash, it will cost $187 at one facility, just $40 at another a short drive away.

"It's ridiculous," says Robert Field, a Drexel University professor and an expert on healthcare policy. If you go buy a car, the first thing you're going to ask is, 'What's the price?' If you go to Best Buy to buy a TV the first thing you're going to look at is, 'What's the price?' If you go to buy healthcare, you have no idea. It's almost as though you put a blindfold on before you got into your car to drive."

"I think that if people know what's out there, they're more likely to demand something," Field says. "In a sense, knowledge is power. The less you know, the more you can get hit by a surprise bill."

We have partnered with another company, ClearHealthCosts, which has spent the past two months gathering cash prices for 35 procedures. You can find those prices on our website.

You'll see that a CMP blood test at East Jefferson Laboratory Services can cost $125. Just a few blocks away at Metairie Patient Service Center, the same test costs 15 bucks.

Experts say prices matter, even if you have insurance.

"Increasingly, insurance doesn't pick up the whole bill," Field tells us, "so we get hit with thousands of dollars."

As we found, it can take hours to find out the price on one procedure. "It's so much time and effort to put into it," Field says.

We want your help gathering prices for our New Orleans PriceCheck database.

We need the cost of any procedure you've had: MRI, colonoscopy, blood test, you name it. We want you to add all that information into our website to help create a larger data set and help us find stories - and help you get information.

Here's what we need you to do:

  • For each procedure, you should have received an Explanation of Benefits form, or an EOB (you can see an example here). Pull out that form.
  • Log on to FOX8live.com/Health. You'll find interactive online form - a widget, if you will - that allows you to enter your information. All of this is private.
  • At the top, enter the type of procedure you had, or what's called the CPT code - that's the number that goes with the procedure. If you had a vasectomy, for instance, that's CPT code 55250.
  • Next, enter the name of the hospital, medical office or doctor's office where you had the procedure.
  • You need to let us know if you have insurance and, if so, list your health insurer.
  • Put in the date of the procedure.
  • Enter the total price you were billed.
  • Then enter what insurance paid, and what it cost you.
  • You can give us your email and phone number if you like.
  • You can even upload your EOB form privately, directly to us.

You can also email us directly at health@fox8live.com, or call us at this number: 504-483-1558.

We're asking you to join FOX 8 News and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune over the next few months, and help us as we try cracking the code of healthcare costs.

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