Wildly Different Hospital Prices Revealed

Photo (cc) by xJason.Rogersx

The federal government is lifting the curtain on hospital prices — by handing them out as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Data released this week show prices can vary more than $100,000 for the same procedure. Consider this example in Texas, from The Washington Post:

Las Colinas Medical Center just outside Dallas billed Medicare, on average, $160,832 for lower joint replacements.

Five miles away and on the same street, Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas, billed the government an average fee of $42,632.

Of course, we were writing about this several years ago. Now we have a lot more data to show how crazy it can be. (Keep in mind that while the hospitals billed for those amounts, Medicare reimbursed them at a much lower rate.)

Hospitals get away with the price differences, in part, because until now consumers could rarely see and compare them, the Post says. Most health care consumers don’t shop for discounts, either.

The “new” data are from 2011, but the government has been collecting price data for years in a less manageable format. Providing better access to government data has been a priority for the Obama administration; a new executive order this week requires new and updated government information to be computer-readable by default.

It may be hard to dig through the spreadsheet as the government provided it, but The New York Times has a tool that lets you see how prices at your local hospitals compare with the national average.

The new data include charges at more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals for the top 100 most frequently billed procedures paid under Medicare. They represent about 7 million Medicare-paid procedures, which was about 60 percent of them for that year.

The Post adds:

The hospital charges being released Wednesday — all from 2011 — show the hospitals’ average list prices. Adding another layer of opacity, Medicare and private insurance companies typically negotiate lower charges with hospitals. But the data shed light on fees that the uninsured could pay.

Hospitals argue that these charges don’t reflect the cost to consumers and also help subsidize bills for the uninsured. American Hospital Association vice president Carol Steinberg told the Post, “The [list of charges] can be confusing because it’s highly variable and generally not what a consumer would pay. Even an uninsured person isn’t always paying the chargemaster [list] rate.”

But isn’t the fact that they ever do bad enough? The data show the nationwide cost for joint replacements varies from $5,304 to $223,373, with an average of $52,063.

Despite the variance, there are some trends in the data. Six states tended to have the highest prices: California, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask
14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask

With these companies, it might be easier than you think to negotiate your monthly bill down.

15 Great Amazon Finds You Can Buy for Less Than $5
15 Great Amazon Finds You Can Buy for Less Than $5

These products offer big value at a small price.

This Is the Best Online Savings Account for 2021
This Is the Best Online Savings Account for 2021

The rate of return is just one of several reasons this account stands out.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect
Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect

Your third coronavirus payment will be the biggest yet — and possibly even bigger than you realize.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021
The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021

Based on factors like affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.