A study by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) finds that prices for common surgeries vary by tens of thousands of dollars among hospitals in the state.
California requires that hospitals publicly share their prices, and CALPIRG's study reviewed 2010 data that lists charges for various procedures. Researchers found:
- Routine surgeries in the Sacramento region ran 111% higher than the state's median;
- The price for an knee replacement surgery ranged from $48,507 to $142,722; and
- The price for an angioplasty ranged from $44,000 to $144,922.
The study also found:
- From 2001 to 2009, families' insurance premiums increased by 113%; and
- Each Californian spent an average of $6,238 on health care in 2009, a 70% increase in a decade.
CALPIRG is pushing for increased price transparency, underscoring a need to control medical spending in order to reduce high health care costs.
Pedro Morillas, legislative director of CALPIRG, says that how much a hospital gets paid is as important as what it charges in order to determine the actual costs of specific procedures. He adds, "for something as essential as health care, we need easy access to clear information...[it helps] if a patient can shop around" for information on both prices and outcomes.
According to California Hospital Association vice president Jan Emerson-Shea , the numerous factors that affect hospital pricing could lead to hospitals reporting "38 million prices for 38 million people, in California—because each is an individual with different health circumstances." Comorbidities, types of insurance coverage, as well as physician and hospital specialties all contribute to a variation in costs, she added.
Furthermore, the "notion that consumers actually go and shop around" is unrealistic since most people follow the protocol their health plan outlines, Emerson-Shea says (Craft, Sacramento Bee, 7/13).