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Affordable Medical Center Posts Surgery Prices Online

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A surgery center, north of the Red River, is offering a new kind of pricing transparency.

The Surgery Center of Oklahoma doesn't wait until after you've had a procedure to inform you of the costs. While the facility has been open for more than a decade Dr. Keith Smith explained, "We put our prices online, at our facility, a little over four years ago, in attempt to make this pricing known to the people who actually pay for their own care."

Smith went on to say that knowing the price of an operation has brought people from all over North America to the 32,000 square foot center in Oklahoma City. He says they're in need of healthcare without a jaw-dropping bill.

"The first thing that happened is, Canadians showed up," he said, adding that a lot of patients just travel across the state line, "A hysterectomy here is $8,000 all-inclusive, including staying the night in the facility and the patient having an epidural so they don't hurt. That [procedure] could easily run $40- or $50,000 at one of the big health systems there in Texas."

While operations performed at the Surgery Center are much lower in cost, administrators say the quality of care is equal to any hospital. "It's anything but a free market," Smith said. "We knew at our facility we were cheaper and that the quality was as good or better than anything around, but couldn't get insurers interested in dealing with us."

Offering price transparency also meant the center had to stop accepting Medicaid and Medicare patients, because the online price menu is against federal regulations.

Smith said setting up a facility that could offer lower medial pricing wasn't as complicated as many might think. "We're completely owned and controlled by the physicians that work here," he explained. "We've eliminated the most greedy and inefficient profit seeker from the equation -- and that's the not-for-profit hospital. We operate our facility at just near cost, much more like a not-for-profit than the actual hospitals that claim that status do."

The price for a breast biopsy at the Surgery Center is $3,500. The same procedure at other hospitals could top $16,000. Smith said their center is generally for, "People who actually pay for their own care, the uninsured, people with health savings accounts and self-funded companies that pay for their employees healthcare costs out of operating revenues."

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Interestingly, Smith said some patients use the Surgery Center online pricing menu to make other medical facilities 'bid' for their business. "Posting our prices has caused other facilities and other hospitals to step up and match our pricing," he said, specifically referring to patients never treated at their center, but who use their pricing to get a better deal closer to home, "I really don't think we have a good feel yet for how much money we've saved people, because everybody that uses our pricing to their advantage is not contacting me."

The Surgery Center of Oklahoma does accept private insurance, and while they currently offer little for the poorest of patients administrators say their pricing transparency may actually cause industry-wide price reductions.

Click here to check out the online pricing 'menu' at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.

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