Getting the best deals in NC hospitals - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

WNCN Investigates

Getting the best deals in NC hospitals

Posted: Updated:
Under a new pricing-transparency law going into effect next year, N.C. hospitals must submit charges for 140 of their most common procedures. Under a new pricing-transparency law going into effect next year, N.C. hospitals must submit charges for 140 of their most common procedures.
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. -

"Here I am now, almost 7 weeks out, and I can say I'm pain-free right now," Gary Kocor said from his home in Holly Springs.

Thanks to back surgery, Kocor is a new man. But he still remembers what it was like before going under the knife.

"Lower back pain for approximately a year and a half prior to that, which was sending pain radiating down both my legs," Kocor described.

When the pain got too much to bear, Kocor had a common, minimally invasive surgery -- called a "microdiscetomy" -- which removed part of a disc that was pressing on the nerves in his back. The final bill for the 90-minute procedure was around $34,000.

Based off a friend's recommendation, Kocor went to Duke Raleigh for the surgery. He still remembers seeing his bill for the first time.

"I was surprised," Kocor said. "Walking into it, I had no idea what the surgery actually cost."

But that's about to change. Under a new pricing-transparency law going into effect next year, North Carolina hospitals must submit charges for 140 of their most common procedures.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' website will list them, but so far, DHHS officials say they're still in the preliminary stages of putting it all together. In the meantime, WNCN accessed a federal database that already lists prices for state-licensed hospitals in central North Carolina.

Eight include Kocor's $34,000 surgery, but the prices are all over the place.

Click here for a database comparing treatment costs at Triangle-area hospitals.

It's to the point that if Kocor went just 6 miles down the road to Rex Hospital, he could have received the same surgery for less than half the price of Duke Raleigh.

Don Dalton with the North Carolina Hospital Association cautions that a higher price doesn't necessarily mean better care. And he doesn't foresee prices going down because of the new law.

"Hospital billing is very complex because of all the people that are involved in it," Dalton said. "It's not simply someone walking in and buying a loaf of bread."

Dr. Brian Caveney with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina agrees, in part, with Dalton.

"Many of the prices are contractually bound for multi-year periods, so it will not happen overnight," Caveney said. "But it will start the conversation."

Both men recommend that in addition to talking with your current doctor, the patient should research more than just prices. That includes:

  • Looking up how many complications there are after a particular surgery.
  • Asking the hospital how many people get re-admitted within 30, 60 or 90 days after surgery.
  • Finding out how much your health insurance will cover.

"If you can look at relative quality and relative cost in two different places, you can make a good decision about where you should have your health care," Caveney said. "We want people to go to reputable databases with real quality information."

He points out that most health insurance companies, including his company, already do that on their websites. Other organizations do the same, including the N.C. Hospital Association, Consumer Reports and the Leapfrog Group.

"I went to WebMD," Gary Kocor said as he gestured toward his laptop. "Probably not the best source. But also through my health insurance company [there's] a website where they can go and they actually rank the doctor."

Kocor said he's grateful for his health insurance because he only had a $75 co-pay. But in the end, his research satisfied him -- even without knowing the price.

"At that point, it was all about me having the surgery and getting past my injury. I probably would have paid whatever he charged at that time, to be honest with you," Kocor said.

"All I can say is I'm very pleased with the results I have," Kocor added. "No pain."

Sean Maroney

Sean anchors WNCN News at 6, 7 & 11 PM. Raised in North Carolina, he returns home after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our newsroom and your home.

More>>

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Dogs Kill Man Out for an Evening Jog

    Dogs Kill Man Out for an Evening Jog

    Friday, July 25 2014 12:36 PM EDT2014-07-25 16:36:28 GMT
    (WDIV) A 46-year-old man has died after being attacked by dogs while he was on a run Wednesday evening in Metamora, Michigan.Police said Craig Sytsma, of Livonia, was running when two 3-year-old cane corsos attacked him.Sytsma died from his injuries at a hospital.Police said the dogs, which are being held by animal control, have been involved in previous bite cases.Read more: http://bit.ly/1l16ze7
    (WDIV) A 46-year-old man has died after being attacked by dogs while he was on a run Wednesday evening in Metamora, Michigan.Police said Craig Sytsma, of Livonia, was running when two 3-year-old cane corsos attacked him.Sytsma died from his injuries at a hospital.Police said the dogs, which are being held by animal control, have been involved in previous bite cases.Read more: http://bit.ly/1l16ze7
  • Sheriff's Office showcases "Faces of Meth" program as a lesson to all

    Sheriff's Office showcases "Faces of Meth" program as a lesson to all

    Monday, July 21 2014 11:33 AM EDT2014-07-21 15:33:26 GMT
    Faces of Meth™ is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Oregon. This project began when a deputy in the Corrections Division Classification Unit, Deputy Bret King, put together mug shots of persons booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center. Deputy King worked with his co-workers in the Classification Unit to identify people who had been in custody more than once. He then worked to verify criminal records and files to determine and assure a history of methamphetamine re...
    Faces of Meth™ is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Oregon. This project began when a deputy in the Corrections Division Classification Unit, Deputy Bret King, put together mug shots of persons booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center. Deputy King worked with his co-workers in the Classification Unit to identify people who had been in custody more than once. He then worked to verify criminal records and files to determine and assure a history of methamphetamine re...
  • 'Creepy' dolls had innocent explanation

    'Creepy' dolls had innocent explanation

    Friday, July 25 2014 7:48 AM EDT2014-07-25 11:48:49 GMT
    This image, date not known, provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department shows one of several dolls that have been found left on doorsteps in the last week in San Clemente, Calif.This image, date not known, provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department shows one of several dolls that have been found left on doorsteps in the last week in San Clemente, Calif.
    Authorities say the person who left on doorsteps porcelain dolls that resembled real children didn't mean any harm.
    Authorities say the person who left on doorsteps porcelain dolls that resembled real children didn't mean any harm.
  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • 2 charged with first-degree murder in beating death of UNC professor, cancer researcher

    2 charged with first-degree murder in beating death of UNC professor, cancer researcher

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:00 AM EDT2014-07-25 13:00:14 GMT
    A UNC research professor was robbed and beaten to death Wednesday afternoon on University Drive in Chapel Hill, police said.
    A UNC research professor was robbed and beaten to death Wednesday afternoon on University Drive in Chapel Hill, police said.
  • Man charged with killing UNC professor had just left Wake Jail

    Man charged with killing UNC professor had just left Wake Jail

    Friday, July 25 2014 3:01 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:01:08 GMT
    Derick Davis II, 23 (Left) and Troy Arrington, Jr., 27, (Right)Derick Davis II, 23 (Left) and Troy Arrington, Jr., 27, (Right)
    An Orange County dispatcher sounded shocked Wednesday afternoon when a 911 caller described finding University of North Carolina professor Feng Liu beaten and dying on a street near the UNC campus.
    An Orange County dispatcher sounded shocked Wednesday afternoon when a 911 caller described finding University of North Carolina professor Feng Liu beaten and dying on a street near the UNC campus.
  • DOT fixes sign for new 485 flyover that spelled Pineville wrong

    DOT fixes sign for new 485 flyover that spelled Pineville wrong

    Friday, July 25 2014 1:40 PM EDT2014-07-25 17:40:30 GMT
    Thursday morning the Department of Transportation officially opened a ramp from Johnston Road to I-485. The flyover ramp opened around 5:15 a.m.
    Thursday morning the Department of Transportation officially opened a ramp from Johnston Road to I-485. The flyover ramp opened around 5:15 a.m.
Powered by WorldNow

1430 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404

Telephone: 912.651.0300
Fax: 912.651.0320
Email: newsemailalert@wsav.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.