Alaska pediatricians push back against hospital prices for circumcisions

Pediatricians in Anchorage, Alaska are raising their voices against a deep disparity between what the city's two major hospitals charge for a common procedure--a rare instance of the provider community raising concerns about pricing transparency.

According to Kaiser Health News, the pediatricians are concerned about the price gap for the cost of a circumcision, which is performed on most newborn males. Alaska Regional Hospital is charging $2,110 for the procedure. By contrast, Providence Hospital charges only $235.

The price disparity has led to a couple of the region's medical groups to either no longer perform the procedure at Alaska Regional, or sharply curtail the number they perform at the facility.

The entire procedure takes only a few minutes. Although physicians often perform circumcisions, specially trained but non-medical members of the Jewish community can also perform them.

"Healthcare dollars are limited and we like to see them spent in ways that really provide good healthcare for people and necessary health care for people," Charles Ryan, M.D., one of the physicians at Anchorage Pediatric Group that decided to perform circumcisions in their offices instead, told Kaiser Health News. "And when the healthcare dollar is being milked off by charges ... those are dollars that can't be used for more essential things."

The Surgery Center of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City has sparked a mini price war among providers by providing flat rates for its surgical procedures, with many often costing far less than what other facilities charge. Its physician leadership has railed against high prices and lack of transparency.

According to Kaiser Health News, more physicians are speaking out against exorbitant hospital charges, although most do so to hospital management behind closed doors. And even then, many still do not have access to pricing data from the hospitals where they practice.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article