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Missouri Hospital Counts On Procedure Price List To Increase Business


Ok, getting health care cost estimates can be difficult. There is one hospital in rural Missouri which is staking its future on making costs crystal-clear. From member station KBIA and Side Effects Public Media, Bram Sable-Smith reports.

BRAM SABLE-SMITH, BYLINE: The type of insurance people show up with to the Putnam County Memorial Hospital is changing, says COO Jerry Cummings.

JERRY CUMMINGS: We went from 3 percent self-pay within the last year to 11 percent of our business is self-pay.

SABLE-SMITH: Meaning more people are paying cash for more of their care. That's welcome news for Cummings, who wants to see a lot more of these customers because reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid aren't enough to keep his hospital running.

CUMMINGS: We've got to have programs other than Medicare in order to survive.

SABLE-SMITH: Soon, the hospital will make prices available upfront to attract both customers with high-deductible plans and a new group of patients, the Amish and Mennonite communities. Truman, who, for religious reasons, asked us not to use his last name, is on a committee of Amish and Mennonites helping Terry Cummings develop a price list for certain procedures. He says the Amish and Mennonite shun health insurance, choosing instead to pay cash for health care. And they travel for the best price.

TRUMAN: Europe, Mexico, all over the United States.

SABLE-SMITH: He himself traveled to Mexico for a colonoscopy for a total cost of $800. But if the price is right in Putnam County, Truman and others in his community could be getting care closer to home. And that would help the hospital keep its doors open. For NPR News, I'm Bram Sable-Smith in Missouri.


WERTHEIMER: These two stories are part of a reporting partnership with NPR, local member stations and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A curious Columbia, Mo. native, Bram Sable-Smith has documented mbira musicians in Zimbabwe, mining protests in Chile, and the St. Louis airport's tumultuous relationship with the Chinese cargo business. His reporting from Ferguson, Mo. was part of a KBIA documentary honored by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and winner of a national Edward R. Murrow Award. He comes to KBIA most recently from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.
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