Utah Hospitals Add Pricelists Online. But How Useful Are They?

Feb 19, 2019, 10:29 PM | Updated: 10:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For years, patients trying to estimate the cost of their medical care may have felt they were putting together a million-piece puzzle, without a picture to guide them.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the Trump administration hoped to solve that. The government required hospitals to post their standard price lists online.

All major Utah hospitals have complied with the rule. Just how useful they are is up for debate.

Pricing Medical Care

“It still doesn’t seem real,” said expectant mother Taylor Wynn.

Taylor Wynn

Wynn is halfway through her first pregnancy. She and her husband are both busy picking up extra shifts at work to sock away money.

“So that when the baby gets here, we’re not overwhelmed,” said Wynn. “I kind of expect it to be like $8,000 to $15,000.”

KSL’s Lori Prichard

The government’s new price disclosure rule is supposed to make planning for medical costs easier. But when KSL tried to find the information on the websites of the three major hospital groups in Utah: Intermountain Healthcare, MountainStar Healthcare, and the University of Utah Health system, the information was often difficult to find, and difficult to use.


Links to the chargemaster price lists are at the bottom of most hospital webpages and require some persistence to find. Once downloaded, the lists are very technical, and may be difficult for most consumers to understand, with descriptions such as “NIPT FETAL ANEUPLOIDY W/ MICRODELETION.”

“I know a pretty decent amount about medical billing and coding, but this isn’t something where I could go in and predict what was going to happen or what was going to be charged,” said health care advocate Whitney Duhaime.

Duhaime helps lead a firm that battles insurers over a patient’s medical bills. She said the price lists don’t help much for estimating the cost of a procedure, because unlike a new coat, or a hamburger, a patient’s real cost is actually kept secret.

“Insurance companies will usually negotiate prices with the hospital. So the hospitals and insurance companies are always negotiating, and that is not public information,” said Duhaime.

Better Cost Tools

The hospitals know this information is complicated. In fact, they all suggested using better resources they’ve had on their websites for years.

MountainStar has posted its average prices for common procedures since 2007.

Intermountain has a tool for SelectHealth members to estimate their costs.

The University of Utah Health System also created its own online cost estimator.

Kathy Delis, the Revenue Cycle Support Service Director for University Health, helped create the tool four years ago.

“We really wanted to make price estimates meaningful for patients,” said Delis.

The online tool uses a patient’s insurance information, medical procedure cost, and doctors’ fees to spit out a more complete estimate of the cost of care.

Delis said it’s much more comprehensive than what someone trying to calculate their cost using the standard price lists could come up with.

“This really does give you your full cost of care,” said Delis.

Utah PricePoint System

The state of Utah has also kept track of average hospital prices for years using discharge data. All three major hospital groups send information to the state, which is available to consumers online.

KSL had Wynn try it out, and the results surprised her. Her estimate showed it may cost $1,000 less to deliver her daughter at American Fork Hospital rather than Utah Valley Hospital.

“It legitimately might have changed, like, where I delivered and like what doctor I went to,” said Wynn.

She said if she was aware of the difference 20 weeks ago, she might have chosen to deliver her baby at Utah Valley Hospital instead.

“It’s not the bottom line but it is a factor in your decision making,” said Wynn. “I had no idea that this even existed and that would have been helpful.”

While the standard price lists now required by the government may not be useful for determining exactly what you will pay on your next visit to the hospital, they could help you decipher your medical bills.

You can compare your bill against the price list to spot billing errors.

LINKS: Chargemasters for University of Utah Health, Intermountain Medical Center, and St. Mark’s Hospital (MountainStar’s largest hospital in Utah).

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

FILE - Thousand gather at the Utah State Capitol to support a woman's right to choose. (KSL TV)...
Daniella Rivera

‘It was hastily passed’: Medical, legal experts raise concerns about Utah’s abortion trigger law

Senate Bill 174, passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020, was crafted, in part, to send a message. Now, medical and legal experts are sounding alarm bells about how it will work in practice.
3 days ago
FILE - Credit and deposit cards on a computer keyboard. Electronic commerce, business. Online shopp...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Americans shy away from using credit cards abroad, missing out on best exchange rates

As COVID-19 wanes, travel agencies are seeing a massive spike in bookings as folks look to spread their wings and travel abroad.
3 days ago
KSL-TV's Matt Gephardt talks to the couple to see how this accident happen....
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Utah couple gets hit with sky-high surprise air ambulance bill

A perk of hitting that out-of-pocket max limit on your health insurance is usually, your insurance covers all other expenses for the year 100%. When a Highland couple continued to get bills, they asked KSL Investigator Matt Gephardt for help.
6 days ago
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all making news with wild up-and-down swings in value. (File...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Congress considers crypto legislation: What you need to know

It's been a rough year for cryptocurrencies. Prices reached record heights this past November, but by last week, crypto has lost $2 trillion of its market value. Now, there's a new plan for the Feds to regulate cryptocurrencies.
7 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Despite growing demand for digital coupons, most are still printed

Researchers found that 91% of all coupons are old-fashioned paper coupons. That’s a problem when you compare it to consumer demand.
10 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Gephardt busts inflation: Is saving hundreds on your internet bill worth the hassle?

When you sign up for internet, you need a modem to connect and router for your home's Wi-Fi. But most internet service providers charge you to use their equipment, on top of what you pay for their plan. But did you know you can buy your own and potentially save hundreds of dollars? The thing is, it’s not necessarily that simple.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah Hospitals Add Pricelists Online. But How Useful Are They?