Some Anchorage pediatricians protest hospital fee

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some Anchorage pediatricians are protesting hospital charges for infant circumcisions that they believe are too high.

Doctors with Anchorage Pediatric Group have stopped doing the procedure at Alaska Regional Hospital, APRN reported. About a year ago, Dr. Charles Ryan with Anchorage Pediatric Group found out the hospital was charging more than $2,000 for the procedure, compared with $235 at Providence Hospital a few miles away. Ryan called Regional’s price — which includes a tray of sterilized, reusable, instruments, a nurse to assist and a board for the infant to lay on — “wildly abnormal.”

“Health care dollars are limited and we like to see them spent in ways that really provide good health care for people and necessary health care for people,” he said. “And when the health care dollar is being milked off by charges that just seem out of proportion to what the cost of delivering those services is, then those are dollars that can’t be used for more essential things.”

Anchorage Pediatric Group bills $700 dollars for circumcisions, wherever they’re performed. Hospitals commonly charge facility fees on top of what doctors charge.

A Regional spokeswoman said the cost is so high in part because the hospital must be ready to treat medical emergencies. She said insurance companies and uninsured families can negotiate better rates.

Dr. John Tappel, who works at LaTouche Pediatrics, thought Regional’s price was a mistake when he first heard it. He generally avoids circumcisions there, unless families request otherwise.

Tappel and Ryan said they think Regional is a good hospital. But Ryan said the situation shows doctors should become better informed on hospital prices.

Tappel said doctors must do their part, too.

“When I order that X-ray or prescribe that antibiotic, I need to do a better job of understanding how that may impact some of my families,” he said.

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