Only 16% of U.S. hospitals surveyed in a recent study gave a complete price quote for a common hip surgery, highlighting the obstacles many patients face in comparison shopping.
Pricing information remains difficult to obtain from medical providers and the figures that are quoted vary widely despite government efforts to make the process more consumer friendly, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. for Internal Medicine.
Jaime Rosenthal, a student at Washington University in St. Louis who led the research, called two hospitals in every state and Washington, D.C., as well as the top 20-ranked orthopedic hospitals according to U.S. News and World Report.
She asked for the lowest bundled price, hospital plus physician fees, on a total hip replacement for a 62-year-old grandmother. She said her relative was uninsured but had the means to pay out of pocket.
The researchers found that 16% of the 122 hospitals contacted provided a complete bundled price. An additional 47% of hospitals could offer a complete price when hospitals and other medical providers were contacted separately, the study said.
And those price quotes varied considerably, from $11,100 to $125,798 for the same hip surgery. The study said Medicare and large insurers often pay $10,000 to $25,000 for joint replacement surgery.
This issue of healthcare pricing has taken on added importance since consumers are responsible for a growing share of their medical bills. Policymakers also hope that wider disclosure of medical prices could help slow down rising healthcare costs.