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Hospital Costs Jump With Changes In Geography Across LA County

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TARZANA (CBSLA.com) — A new report from the federal government details how a few miles can make a drastic difference on the cost of a simple procedure and CBS2 reveals Los Angeles-area hospitals vary as much as $37,690 for the same treatment.

The Department of Health & Human Services went public with the new data Wednesday. CBS2’S Amy Johnson has uncovered how much health care costs can jump depending on which facility patients seek treatment in Los Angeles County.

Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles will bill $50,823 after treating a patient suffering from chest pains. However, the same treatment will cost $23,308 at Silver Lake Medical Center and $13,133 at Sherman Oaks Hospital.

A patient going to the hospital for respiratory infections and inflammation will pay $18,456 at Keck Hospital of USC, $14,178 at Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles and $9,047 at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

Residents say the difference in the cost of procedures within just a few miles is eye-opening and unfair.

“Every hospital has their own different prices. It’s a shame but that’s how it is,” Tarzana resident Lee Ohevzion said.

“If you’re sick and you come in like you need [care] ASAP you’re not gonna, like, start shopping.”

But some residents are doing just that. Another woman admitted she shopped around for a hospital to deliver her baby.

“I knew I needed to with my insurance,” she said. “I think that’s important to know how much you’re paying for things.”

The Department of Health & Human Services released Wednesday details about how much medical bills can vary depending on locale.

The report included cost estimates for Medicare patients at 3,000 health care facilities around the country. It focused on costs for 100 of the most frequently billed hospital discharges, including heart failure, pneumonia, chest pain, diabetes and urinary tract infections.

The government agency said releasing the report is part of an attempt to make the health care system more affordable and accountable.

Los Angeles County Medical Association President Dr. Samuel Fink disagrees.

“I believe that this report is an attempt to demonize hospitals, and they don’t need that. Hospitals are struggling to stay afloat,” he said.

“It really doesn’t matter what the hospital charges unless a patient doesn’t have insurance.”

Dr. Fink said uninsured patients can negotiate their charges and that there are some valid reasons why some hospitals charge more, such as how ill their patients are and whether or not the institution is a teaching hospital.

Still, the Obama Administration said it has made $87 million available to states to bolster efforts for increased transparency in the health care system.

“Currently, consumers don’t know what a hospital is charging them or their insurance company for a given procedure, like a knee replacement, or how much of a price difference there is at different hospitals, even within the same city,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CBS News.

“This data and new data centers will help fill that gap.”

The Department of Health & Human Services report is available at CMS.gov.

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