Hospitals unable to give pricing information

The opacity in hospital pricing persists, with a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine showing more than 100 U.S. facilities could not provide a consistent quote for a hip surgery.

After contacting two hospitals in every state to obtain a hip surgery quote for a fictional grandmother paying out of pocket, only about half of the hospitals provided researchers with a price quote, The New York Times reported. For those hospitals that did offer pricing information, estimates ran from $11,100 to $125,798.

The rates are so disparate because hospitals are accustomed to bargaining with insurers, which provide the bulk of their revenue. along with Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, they are not prepared to provide pricing data to consumers, the Times reported.

However, there's no explanation for the wide variability in prices estimates or hospitals' inability to provide them, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., chair of the University of Pennsylvania's department of medical ethics and policy, and his research assistant Andrew Steinmetz said in an accompanying commentary.

"Without quality data to accompany price data, physicians, consumers and other healthcare decision makers have no idea if a lower price represents shoddy quality of if it constitutes good value," they wrote.

For more:
- read the New York Times article
- here's the JAMA research announcement