Hospitals charges for the same procedure can vary by thousands of dollars among hospitals, even within the same city, according to a new report issued today by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Bloomberg reported.
The data, which includes statistics from more than 3,000 hospitals that accept Medicare, showed that in some cases costs can drastically vary for hip replacements, bone fractures and treatments for kidney failure. Three hospitals in and around the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., alternately charged $97,214, $46,457 and $28,237 to treat a respiratory infection with complications, according to one example.
A cursory look at the data for Iowa hospitals by the Business Record found significant price variations between different cities in the state, but competitive pricing within metropolitan areas. A hospitalization for a respiratory infection in Des Moines varied in cost from an average of $19,933 at Iowa Lutheran Hospital to $23,117 at Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines. Charges for the same hospitalization averaged $30,030 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to $32,428 at Mercy - Iowa City.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it released the data for the first time to make the health system "more affordable and accountable." The information adds to the scrutiny of what patients, insurers and the government pay for medical services as 2010's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to extend coverage to 27 million uninsured people.
"Hospital pricing is the craziest of crazy quilts," Ron Pollack, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group Families USA, told Bloomberg. "People who wind up paying the highest prices are people who are uninsured and who can least afford bearing this unaffordable burden."
Click here to read a related Business Record story about a Greater Des Moines company that specializes in working with employers to help covered workers shop for the best medical pricing.