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Elliot Hospital unveils bundled billing plan to help with costs

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 26. 2014 8:28PM
Rick Elwell, chief financial officer, answers questions following a press conference announcing a new approach to billing at Elliot Hospital in Manchester on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Elliot Health System on Wednesday unveiled a new program to bundle all costs into one bill, paid in advance, providing patients with a lower overall price and more transparency of how much they are paying, officials said.

The program is only open to those without insurance unless Elliot can negotiate changes with insurance companies to adopt the bundled approach.

Colonoscopies, for instance, will cost $1,995 under the all-inclusive pricing.

Unbundled, “it would probably be double the amount,” Rick Elwell, Elliot’s chief financial officer, said after a news conference at Elliot Hospital.

The savings from the uninsured would come from them paying 100 percent of their bills prior to one of three procedures: colonoscopy, hernia repair and knee arthroscopy, Elwell said. Currently, uninsured patients pay only 25 to 30 percent of their overall tabs, he said. They make up about 10 percent of Elliot’s total patient base.

To offer patients with insurance the bundled price, Elliot needs to negotiate a different payment system with insurance companies and also require doctors to take less money per procedure, Elwell said.

The bundled system would eliminate separate bills for the procedure, physician, lab, imaging and anesthesia — “sometimes 30 bills,” according to Dr. Rick Phelps, Elliot’s president and chief operating officer.

“This innovation will create price transparencies, so patients understand upfront exactly what their health care costs will be and will transform how patients and employers pay for health care in New Hampshire in the future,” Phelps said.

“We are confident that what we’re about to unveil will meet the needs of businesses and patients looking for value in health care and create a real solution for escalating health care costs for everyone,” Phelps said.

He said the bundled approach, if adopted by insurers, “will forever change health care in New Hampshire.”

Jennifer Patterson, life and health legal counsel at the New Hampshire Insurance Department, said she couldn’t handicap the chances of insurance companies accepting the bundled approach. She said she also would want to make sure consumers were clear on how the bundled price would work with their insurance.

“There would have to be a change with the insurance company, so the insured patient going in would know it would apply to their deductible,” Patterson said.

Elliot said Department of Insurance figures showed the highest cost of a colonoscopy runs more than $7,000 in New Hampshire while the state average runs more than $4,000.

On Wednesday, that state website, which compares hospital prices for various procedures, had a message posted, saying “a failure in the data reporting process has made updating price estimates at the moment impossible. These delays are temporary, but may last for several months.”

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