Hospitals required to post clear pricing online, but metro patients having hard time getting that

ATLANTA — If you are shopping for a car, a TV, or even a house, you probably look around and compare prices.

But when it comes to surgeries or medical procedures comparison shopping is not as common.

Those medical procedures can have bills as high as cars or even homes. That’s why hospitals are now required by law to provide clear, accessible pricing information online.

But that does not mean it’s simple to figure out what a surgery will actually cost.


“The goal is price transparency so that a health system can’t inflate costs for something,” said Georgia Watch Executive Director Liz Coyle.

But how about three different prices for one surgery from the same hospital within one week?

The price difference is more than $100,000.

“To this day, I have not gotten a correct answer with regard to what the exact numbers are,” one patient told Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray.

He asked not to be identified because he said the bariatric surgery he’s pricing is tied to a family member’s sexual assault.

He reached out to Emory University Hospital to price three different bariatric procedures and was first given prices between $5,000 and $9,000 over the phone and in writing on his Emory MyChart account.

But he got a different price by phone when he went to begin the process.

“They gave me new numbers that were triple the prices that I had been given the week before,” the patient said.

And when he asked about that price difference, he got another new price -- and it was a big one.


“Those numbers came back, and the lowest one was $108,000 for a procedure that I had been quoted would be approximately $6,000 a week before and $25,000 that same day,” the patient said.

When Gray looked online to check, he first found broken links to Emory Hospital’s price estimator and price transparency tools.

At a different part of the website, he was able to search for a price -- a $28,000 estimate for one of the surgeries, $80,000 less than Emory quoted.

Coyle said the price confusion is common at hospitals across Georgia.

“People have a right to comparison shop. They do it for a car. They do it for a house, something that’s, you know, critically important to their lives is health care. You should be able to know,” Coyle said.

Emory Healthcare sent Channel 2 Action News a statement, saying:

“We are committed to continuously reviewing our processes and procedures related to providing price estimates, in an effort to offer the most pertinent and useful information to consumers and patients. As we refine our processes, we apologize for any confusion experienced during this process.”

A new Georgia website is designed to help. It just went online in January.

The All-Payer Claims Database was required by a Georgia law passed in 2021 and includes claims data from insurers and organizations like Medicare and Medicaid

“It’ll give you an idea of what it should cost,” Coyle said.

Right now, what you can search on the site is limited but as it develops Coyle told Gray that this could be a place where Georgia consumers can go and see what surgeries and procedures really should cost.

“It’s just the first year, it’s brand new. But we have great confidence that in the coming years, patients in Georgia will have a much better way of easily searching and digesting what it should cost to have the procedures that they need,” Coyle said.

Emory Healthcare told Gray that because of privacy laws, they won’t comment on a specific case, but in a statement, said:

“Emory Healthcare has put significant effort into making pricing information more accessible to help consumers make better-informed decisions about their health care. Our goal is to have a website that is both compliant and useful to patients and industry stakeholders.”

The federal government has sent more than 700 warning letters to hospitals it found in noncompliance with the price transparency law.

So far, 14 hospitals have been fined. Three of those are here in Georgia -- Northside, Northside Cherokee, and Fulton County Hospital.