Variations in billing for colonoscopies leave patients footing the bill — Unclear pricing practices cause confusion, create debt

A New Orleans Times-Picayune investigation documented the high variance in colonoscopy price throughout New Orleans.

Here's what you should know.

1. The ACA mandates payers cover preventive colonoscopy's entire cost. However, patients across the country are often left paying out-of-pocket costs for a variety of reasons.

2. In some cases, the hospital charges the patients for a diagnostic colonoscopy, which payers are not required to cover in full.

3. Hospitals often offer a lower price for cash-only procedures compared to procedures billed through a payer. However, almost every hospital in New Orleans doesn't advertise its cash prices online.

4. Fairway Medical Center in Covington (La.) charged a colonoscopy screening patient $1,561 out-of-pocket for anesthesia and physician services and facility use. The hospital quoted an all-inclusive rate of $1,172 for the same procedure to the Times-Picayune.

5. Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System billed four patients for endoscopy services when they were receiving colonoscopies. While technically correct, the wide variance endoscopy could entail makes it impossible to know if a health system mischarged a patient.

Ochsner Health didn't address the mislabeling in a statement to the Times-Picayune. In that statement it said that "various factors" affect what the health system charges.

More articles on gastroenterology:
Underwater colonoscopy more effective than air insufflation — 5 insights
Drs. David Ahlquist & Anil Rustgi: 8 GI physicians in the headlines
GI leader to know: Dr. Dino Ferrante of the Center for Colon & Digestive Disease

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