Consumers looking to buy a new car or a computer can shop around for the right price, but when it comes to health care, it's difficult to even find out ahead of time how much a procedure will cost. And when patients do find out, the cost can vary by thousands of dollars, depending on the hospital, according to a study released on Monday.
Researchers at the University of Iowa set out to see if they could learn, and then compare, the price of a common procedure -- hip replacement -- at hospitals across the United States. Of those they surveyed, only 16 percent could immediately provide a complete price, including the doctor's fees and hospital costs, for the procedure. And 47 percent of the hospitals came up with a figure only after health care providers were separately contacted.
When price estimates for the widely performed procedure were given, they ranged from $11,100 to $125,798, reported the study, which was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in its publication, JAMA Internal Medicine.