YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Maine Heritage Policy Center is out with research they hope will ultimately help the Maine economy.
The group has released its publication, "Health Care Costs in Maine". It's an analysis of price disparities in Maine hospitals.
In some cases, the disparities are alarming. One hospital was found to charge double the amount that another hospital charges for the same procedure. The report looks at prices at Maine’s 33 hospitals—where $11 billion dollars is spent annually.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s findings revealed health care cost variation sometimes represents a five-fold difference or thousands of dollars. On average, they found medical care is most expensive in small, rural hospitals in northern and eastern Maine, and least expensive in urban hospitals in southern Maine.
The research is online through the website CompareMaine.org. The Maine Heritage Policy Center says that website and their findings are critical pieces to keeping health care costs transparent and helping consumers navigate a confusing system.
“It’s almost impossible to keep track of what costs what and what labor costs versus the materials you’re putting in versus the medicine versus everything else that goes into keeping you healthy," explained Matt Gagnon, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. "Because of that, prices are inflated and that creates higher premiums."
As the report found, costs are all over the place.
Maine General Hospital in Augusta was ranked third most affordable hospital behind York Hospital and Central Maine Medical Center.
The group launched CompareMaine.org in 2013, a site dedicated to transparency in healthcare. They list, by hospital, how much different procedures cost for patients.
“We have no experience in shopping for health care. We don’t really know how to look for a procedure and how to compare what it costs from one place to another,” added Gagnon. “That’s part of the problem, because it means we’re not comparing and contrasting and introducing any competition in the market, which doesn’t keep someone who’s providing healthcare honest.”
The group expects to have more detailed analysis up on CompareMaine.org in June. They plan to share their information with lawmakers when they are back in session, Gagnon says, “hoping for better oversight and better transparency among Maine hospitals.”