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Organization calls on Indianapolis hospital systems to lower cost of healthcare

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Posted at 11:05 PM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 12:09:29-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Is the cost of healthcare in Indiana too high?

A Indy-based organization called Hoosiers for Affordable Healthcare says yes — and is encouraging local hospital systems to do more to lower their prices.

$1,394,139.20 — that’s how much Deanna Todd estimates her hospital bills ran when her newborn son Brixton went into respiratory failure.

In April 2020, Brixton was admitted into the PICU at Riley Hospital for three weeks of non-stop testing.

Then, after genetic testing, doctors found Brixton has a condition called congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS).

“Basically, he forgets to breathe when he’s asleep or unconscious,” Todd said.

At nine weeks old, he had a tracheostomy and a G tube placement, racking up the total number of days in the hospital to 96.

“It was absolutely insane. There’s no way. We would’ve had to have filed bankruptcy for sure," she said.

Todd says she’s lucky they had Hoosier Healthwise and had to pay no out of pocket costs.

But that’s not the case for many Hoosiers racking up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency medical care.

Indiana has the 7th highest inpatient and outpatient costs in the country.

Hoosiers for Affordable Healthcare Chief Advocacy Officer Matt Bell tells WRTV some reasons why that may be.

“Number one, we’ve seen tremendous market consolidation in Indiana. Hospitals have merged and acquired each other at a rate that outpaces the national average. That’s added significant costs. When we see consolidation, we see costs. Secondly in Indiana, we have a consolidated insurance market. We don’t have a large number of players in the insurance field who are competing and helping to drive down those costs," Bell said.

Friday, one of the state’s largest nonprofit hospitals, Ascension St. Vincent, held a public forum its costs.

Bell says Ascension’s pricing is roughly 40% higher than the national average.

Representatives from the organization addressed those cost differences during the forum:

“Each market is very different. Healthcare is local and how it’s managed is way different from one market to another, with different services, different delivery models, methods. Regulations differ from state to state, health plans and pairs and different from state to state and greatly influence the dynamics that play out in that state or market.”

Ascension is engaged in some cost-reducing practices like value-based care arrangements, direct-to-employer contracting and expanded telehealth capabilities.

But Bell says more needs to be done.

“I think when you have one in five families nationally who are struggling with medical debt, when you have families here in Indianapolis who are making choices between food and medicine, they don’t take much comfort in the fact that Ascension is flexible," he said.

For those struggling to pay for medical expenses, Ascension offers financial counseling and assistance. You can find more information here.