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Young Coloradans launch website to provide price transparency for medical procedures

Young Coloradans launch website to provide price transparency for medical procedures
Posted at 10:46 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 16:50:29-04

DENVER — Two Coloradans barely on the cusp of adulthood have created a tool to help us all.

The website, Price Medic, launched in August of this year after two El Paso County high school graduates, Katelynn Salmon and Josh Nakka, worked on compiling data and developing the site for three months.

Nakka is currently a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University studying computer science and business. Salmon is a junior at Rice University studying statistics.

Price Medic has compiled prices for various medical procedures across the state in a search engine format so users can compare costs at various hospitals. Users simply have to enter a procedure name and zip code.

"Last year, my mom was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and she decided on a laser ablation treatment instead of a traditional hysterectomy," Salmon said. "Because she wanted the new procedure, our insurance wasn't going to cover the cost, so my family really struggled trying to find which hospitals would offer the new procedure and then how much it was going to cost us, since we would be paying out of pocket."

Salmon and Nakka worked during their summer break to complete the site.

"Sometimes if you drive the extra 15 minutes, you definitely save," Nakka said. "We checked an average on procedures that are under $500, you're gonna save an average of $250. That's a lot of money for procedures."

Nakka said the biggest challenge was getting consistent results when they looked for procedure prices.

"Normally, procedures have what are called procedure codes. These are shared by all the hospitals. Some hospitals do not release the procedure code, so it's harder to do that one-to-one comparison between prices that you really want to do," he said.

Back in 2019, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandated all hospitals to provide standard charges for hospital items and services. The law went into effect this year.

Right now, Price Medic has prices for about 90 Colorado hospitals, though users won't find some hospitals.

"They're either not compliant with CMS or their data is in such a difficult file format that we weren't able to open it," Salmon said.

Salmon and Nakka are still working to get prices for all Colorado hospitals listed on Price Medic. The site has also compiled costs for Georgia hospitals and hopes to launch prices for California later this month.

"So as I've gotten older, I found it really painful to know that a lot of my fellow Americans are going without health care that is a necessity for them, because of the cost," Salmon said. "I think that my hope for price medic would be that it's something that I can do as a private citizen without a stake in the game to help decrease that number."