This article does a good job of highlighting why we pay more at Jefferson Healthcare, even though it’s a publically owned hospital. We are designated a “critical access” hospital, meaning we are rural, which gives JHC much greater flexibility of charging. JHC and Port Townsend are in a strange situation, in that we are designated the same as a very remote hospital, say in Eastern Washington, or Forks. Though we are only a short drive from non-rural designated systems in Poulsbo or Seattle. The take away is that unless you can afford to pay more for your care, or weigh the cost and hassle of traveling, you will pay less (sometimes significantly less) for the same care by going to Seattle or even in some cases, Poulsbo. I’ve personally found it to be dramatically less, especially for procedures and labs. If you can, always shop your medical care. Jefferson Healthcare is in the process of evaluating their charges, based on customer complaints. The unintended consequence of all this is that the poor and lower income people pay a much higher percent of their income for healthcare by living here and not shopping their healthcare. They often don’t have the time to do so, and often aren’t even aware of the problem in pricing.
Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket costs for outpatient care are significantly higher at critical access hospitals than at other acute care hospitals, and the reason for the difference in cost is buried in a 1997 law.