Where Do Hospitals Post Their Prices? Part 1: How Many Clicks to Get to the Center of Hospital Price Transparency?

Every time I go to the doctor, I wonder what the bill is going to be. Unlike most other services I pay for, when I seek medical care I don’t know what the cost is going to be before I go in, or have much control over what I pay once I’m there. At the end of the day I get hit with the bill, but I can’t search Google for “knee surgery price” and get an easy answer beforehand. However, at the beginning of 2021, a rule went into effect that requires hospitals to post “clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide in two ways: 1) As a comprehensive machine-readable file with all items and services, 2) In a display of shoppable services in a consumer-friendly format.”[1] This is intended to help consumers find what treatment will cost them. I looked at 12 Oregon hospital websites to try to determine whether they were posting their prices, and how easy it was to navigate to them.

The first step is figuring out where to look, and every hospital does this a little differently. The good news is most of the hospitals I looked at have a clearly labeled “Price Transparency” or “Estimate Your Costs” page. Though they vary a little, usually you can navigate to a “For Patients,” “Patient Billing,” or “Financial Information” tab, and with minimal exploring you can find the page you’re looking for. Most hospitals have a brief overview letting you know that you’re in the right spot.

Once you reach the transparency page, though, it’s not always clear-cut how to find the actual price for your treatment, and it can be frustrating trying to find it. Here’s a breakdown of how many clicks it took me to get to both the price transparency page and the actual price list or estimate tool for each hospital. I’ve scored them on a personal scale of 1-5 on how easy it was for me to find the estimator tool, taking into consideration how visible the links were, how many clicks it took, and how frustrated I got in trying to find it. I’ve provided a link to each hospital’s transparency page at the end of this post.





*The main hospitals in the Bend area all belong to St. Charles and share both a webpage and prices. These numbers also apply to St. Charles Madras and St. Charles Prineville.

For the most part, I had little trouble finding each hospital’s transparency overview page. Finding the specific estimator tool or price, on the other hand, was harder, and counting the number of clicks does not express the difficulty in navigating to those pages or understanding the content. I often had to start over from the hospital’s homepage, and sifting through all the information to determine what files I needed to access was at some points overwhelming. I sometimes felt I’d have better luck taking on Mr. Owl’s endeavor of counting the licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Hospital price information is detailed and complex, and it is easy to get confused with extra information that you don’t need since it is often all on the same page. In addition, most hospitals require inputting your own insurance information to get an accurate estimate of the actual cost. At least Mr. Owl had a shortcut to get to the center of his lollipop. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to compare hospital prices, you’re going to spend a bit of time searching, especially the first time you look. I’ll dive more into procedure costs and understanding the transparency webpages in Parts 2 & 3!


1. 45 CFR 180, https://www.cms.gov/hospital-price-transparency

Links to Transparency Pages:

Providence Portland Medical Center

Legacy Emanuel Medical Center


Providence Seaside Hospital

Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital

Bay Area Hospital

St. Charles Redmond, Madras, and Prineville

Harney District Hospital

Lake District Hospital

Pioneer Memorial Hospital


Maribeth Guarino

High Value Health Care, Advocate, PIRG

Maribeth educates lawmakers and the public about problems in health care and pushes for workable solutions. When she's not researching or lobbying, Maribeth likes to read, play games, and paint.

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