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Health care is listed as a top priority by just about every American. As much as access, quality of care and safety are key concerns, cost is a critical for all, whether through direct payment for services or cost of insurance, deductibles and co-payments.

New federal rules mean hospitals nationwide now have to make cost information available online.

The South Carolina Hospital Association has a service to help consumers in determining the cost of medical care. Called South Carolina PricePoint, the website found at www.scpricepoint.org is a consumer-friendly database of hospital charges, utilization and payer-mix information.

PricePoint offers accurate and timely information about charges and services provided by the state's hospitals. The information is from the S.C. Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, a state government agency charged with collecting this data from hospitals.

SCHA says the data can be used to compare hospital costs – generally.

“It is important for consumers to understand how to use the data provided by PricePoint. For instance, most insurers negotiate discounts with individual hospitals, and the charges reported on PricePoint do not reflect these discounts,” according to SCHA. “Therefore, to accurately compare charges from hospital A with hospital B, each consumer needs to talk with his or her insurer and ask for an estimate of out-of-pocket expenses at each hospital. It's possible that a consumer will pay less at a hospital with higher average charges, depending on the contract the hospital and insurer have negotiated.”

Importantly, and as SCHA notes, cost is not all of the value equation.

That's why more than a decade ago the SCHA partnered with the Wisconsin Hospital Association to launch My SC Hospital, a website found at www.myschospital.org that shares reliable information about the quality and safety of care provided by South Carolina hospitals. Crucial comparable information for Americans on Medicare can also found at www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare.

In Orangeburg, the Regional Medical Center has voluntarily participated in South Carolina PricePoint. And the public hospital owned by Orangeburg and Calhoun counties has taken the comparative process a step further with its own way of providing estimated hospital costs to individuals upon request before services are provided.

Individuals can call the RMC Price Line to speak to a representative, who will collect information about the service requested, the individual’s health insurance carrier, deductible and other information to estimate how much the individual will be responsible for paying.

The RMC Price Line number is 803-395-3000 -- toll free in South Carolina at 800-476-3377, ext. 3000. Hours are Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Being competitive in health care is vital to the future of any institution – and nowhere more so than in The T&D Region with RMC. The hospital is the only major health care facility outside metro Charleston and metro Columbia in proximity of the major routes between the capital and port city. Its future is vital to the state and more specifically locally.

We urge locals and others to compare RMC using the tools provided by the S.C. Hospital Association. Accurate information is far better than rumor and speculation.

To facilitate getting this information, TheTandD.com has established a special location at the website where you can easily access both South Carolina PricePoint and My SC Hospital.

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