WellStar WGMC posts prices

Published 6:33 pm Monday, January 7, 2019

At the start of the new year, WellStar West Georgia Medical Center posted its prices for services on its website, meeting a new federal guideline that went into effect on Jan. 1. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services required that all hospitals post their prices online by the start of 2019. The chargemaster lists everything from a 55-cent aspirin tablet to a breakdown of major procedures. The list is broken down into four categories — alternates, medications, procedures and supplies. 

Nicole Gustin, the director of public relations and marketing for WellStar, said the prices — known as chargemasters — aren’t very helpful to consumers because it isn’t what will actually be paid in most cases due to insurance and other financial aid. 

“Chargemaster amounts are almost never billed to a patient or received as payment by a hospital,” Gustin said in an email. “The chargemaster amounts are billed to an insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid, and those insurers then apply their contracted rates to the services that are billed. In situations where a patient does not have insurance, our hospital has financial assistance policies that apply discounts to the amounts charged.”

WellStar’s pricing is available in a .txt format on its website, and there is no search functionality included. Gustin said the hospital is considering ways to make the information user-friendly. 

“Given the many services provided by hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a chargemaster contains thousands of services and related charges,” Gustin said. “Chargemaster prices can change at any time, and services or items may be added or deleted.”

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a speech in July that posting the hospital prices online was a “small step” toward more transparency. 

Gustin said WellStar will work patients to ensure they understand their financial responsibility when receiving care. She said anyone with questions can call (470) 245-9998. For WellStar’s pricing, visit Wellstar.org/about-us/policies-procedures/pages/wellstar-hospital-pricing-transparency.aspx.