Philly Health Costs: Navigating Health Care Pricing

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Philly Health Costs
Philly Health Costs: Nydia Han reports on Action News at 11 p.m., February 21, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The rising cost of health care is one of the biggest problems we face in our country. But now, Action News is trying to be part of the solution by bringing transparency to the healthcare marketplace.

That's why we are partnering with the Philadelphia Inquirer to provide Philly Health Costs and the PriceCheck tool. It's an online tool you can use to look up the real cost of medical treatments, tests, and services in our area.

See the PriceCheck tool here

Over the years, Action News has heard your stories of frustration and anger over the price of health care, particularly when it comes to surprise bills. Bob Dolente of Springfield, Pa. realized he was paying a $400 copay when he could have been paying a $150 copay at a different facility.

"I wanted my money back," said Dolente.

Wendy Ericsson of Lansdale, Pa. told Action News she was charged both $75 and $185 for the same type of physical therapy.

"I think that's insane. I think it's ridiculous," she said.

We showed Philly Health Costs to Elizabeth Masiello, a patient at a physical therapy clinic in West Chester.

"Wow, I didn't even know something like this existed," she said.


The database was created by a journalism startup that collects prices three ways: by calling providers; inviting providers to contribute directly; and asking people like you to contribute.

The guide allows you to type in a medical procedure or code then find prices by zip code.

For example, we found a dramatic variation in price for a lower back MRI without contrast, medical code 72148. The quoted prices include the facility fee and the doctor's fee. Depending on where you go you could pay as little as $369 to as much as $1,385.

Another example is a common blood test you would get to evaluate your overall health. A complete blood cell count, known as a CBC, uses medical code 85025. The quoted prices, which include a draw fee, range from $11 to $118.

"People really need to know that there are resources out there available to help them with controlling the cost of their health care," said Masiello.


Action News Consumer Reporter Nydia Han shows you how to use Philly Health Costs and the PriceCheck tool.

Dr. Ryan Bair is the owner of FLASH Sports Physical Therapy and Performance Center. He agrees with Masiello on needing more transparency.

"We're empowering the patient because we're in charge of the decision, not the middleman, not the insurance company," he said.

Dr. Bair runs a cash-based clinic meaning patients pay him directly.

"And what's really fascinating is most people would pay an average about half of what they would pay if they would go through an insurance-based clinic," he explained.

Dr. Bair charges $120 an hour but most insurance-based clinics charge $200 to $300 an hour. While Dr. Bear sees patients once a week, most insurance-based clinics see patients multiple times a week.

"Most patients' copays on average are $40 to $50 so if you go three times a week, that's about $150 immediately you're spending more than you would spend here," said Dr. Bair. "I say to most patients if you have a copay over $20 in most instances, you're going to be saving money with us."

The hope is that you'll not only use Philly Health Costs but contribute to it as well. The health care information you provide will be used anonymously.

See the PriceCheck tool here