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Startling Differences in New-Hip Estimates: Study
Date:2/12/2013

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb.11 (HealthDay News) -- Advance estimates for a standard hip replacement at a top-ranked U.S. hospital can run as low as $12,500 or surpass $105,000, if you can actually obtain a quote, a new study finds.

Many hospitals can't -- or won't -- provide straightforward price quotes in advance of medical procedures, the researchers found. And when they do supply estimates, the costs see-saw widely, even between comparable facilities, they said. For instance, at general hospitals they found a nearly $115,000 differential for a new hip, with total fees from $11,100 to about $126,000.

"On the quality front, there's actually a lot of data available," noted study co-author Dr. Peter Cram, an associate professor and director of the division of general medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. "Information and assessments are everywhere. And generally that's a good thing," he said.

"But it turns out that price data is much, much, much more limited," he added. "Which is funny, because measuring quality is really hard, and relatively speaking, pricing information should be much easier to get."

For the study, published online Feb. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine, the authors randomly selected 122 medical centers -- two non-ranked hospitals from all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and another 20 orthopedic hospitals that were "top-ranked" by U.S. News and World Report.

Between 2011 and 2012, all the facilities were requested to provide the lowest total (or "bundled") hospital-plus-doctor price for a patient described as a 62-year-old grandmother who lacked insurance but had the means to pay for the elective service out-of-pocket.

After contacting each hospital a maximum of five times, the team found that only 10 percent of the non-top-ranked hospitals and 45 percent of the top-ranked orthopedic group hospitals could
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