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See how hospitals inflate bills and shake down patients for millions

Is your hospital among the worst offenders?

See how hospitals inflate bills and shake down patients for millions
[Source Photo: AlexLMX/iStock]
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A third of working Americans have medical debt. And about half of that group has defaulted on medical loans. Even for the insured, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are going up—while hospitals are inflating bills in a price war with insurance companies. And when people can’t pay, many hospitals sue or send bills to debt collectors.

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It’s the terrible reality of America’s healthcare, and a new series of data visualizations by Axios, spotted by FlowingData, takes you right inside of it. Built from an analysis of the top 100 hospitals in the United States by Johns Hopkins University, Axios’s charts let you easily sort through the data by tapping on a few tabs to spot some of the worst predatory billing behaviors. “We wanted to make this data feel personal and understandable,” Michelle McGhee, a visual journalist at Axios, wrote in an email to Fast Company.

It’s a sobering visualization to explore, but also very worthwhile to reference if your hospital is on the list.

Explore the interactive graphic here. [Screenshot: Axios]

Here’s how it works: Each hospital appears as a circle. The circles are yellow for privately owned hospitals, blue for nonprofit hospitals, and green for government hospitals. The larger the circle, the more revenue the hospital makes.

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These circles are then placed on graphs that you can rearrange with a tap. Tap on the “predatory billing grade” to see which hospitals are most likely to file lawsuits or garnish wages on owed bills (these are rated with letter grades from A to F). The “average bill markup” sorts the hospitals by how much more they charge than their services cost them to provide. The worst offenders are private hospitals, which can bill services for nearly 13 times what they actually cost, while most hospitals hover between 4 and 6 times.

The best shorthand skim option for the chart, however, is the “billing quality score.” This metric balances all the meaningful data into one figure. It’s your quickest way of knowing whether to stick with or ditch your hospital, as it takes other important points, like the hospital’s safety, into account.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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