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St. Petersburg, Florida

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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Comparison Shopping For Drugs And Medical Procedures On The Web

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Have you wanted to compare the costs of medical procedures and drugs as easily as you do the costs of books or TV’s on the Web? Keep your keyboards handy. According to an article from Massachusetts, internet shoppers in that state may soon add chest X-rays, ultrasounds and tonsillectomies to their virtual shopping carts under a key provision of the state’s ambitious new health care reform law. The article mentions a drug price comparison site in Florida. Will our Legislature take the next logical step?

One of the goals of the new law is to drive down the cost of health care in part by arming consumers with the ability to compare prices on everything from asthma inhalers to Caesarean sections.

The law requires the state to set up a Web site that not only allows consumers to compare the quality of hospitals and clinics, but would also include the average payment each charges for a range of services, including office visits, diagnostic tests, surgeries and other therapies.

The new Web site will have prices, not only for hospitals, but for the cost of prescriptions at individual pharmacies. That should be helpful those who want to compare prices, especially in non-emergency situations.

The average delivery cost for a low-weight baby in the Boston area jumps from $1,800 at Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Hospital to $5,300 at Massachusetts General Hospital, according to the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy.

Being able to compare pharmacy prices could also be a big help for those on fixed incomes who don’t have prescription insurance coverage.

Other states have already begun posting similar information.

Visitors to a Web site maintained by the New Hampshire Department of Insurance can investigate the costs of certain procedures and operations. The average price for a hip replacement in the Granite State, for example, is $24,162, with actual costs ranging from as low as $11,140 and as high as $41,656.

In Florida, consumers can compare the price of prescriptions at pharmacies across a geographic area. A search for the cost of the same prescription for Flonase allergy nasal spray in the Miami area, for example, found prices ranging from $69 to $150.