Interactive map on healthcare prices shows they're all over the place

An interactive map describing the cost of common medical procedures in each state shows a huge variation in what patients pay depending on where they live.

The map, launched by the healthcare shopping service Vitals, contains data on five different procedures: CT scans, colonoscopies, lipid panels, upper GI exams and hernia repairs.

The differences in prices are eye-opening. In Mississippi, for example, a colonscopy can cost as little as $223. In New York, a colonscopy can cost as much as $10,000. However, the average prices for each state tend to be much closer to one another: the average cost of a colonoscopy was $938 in Mississippi versus $1,101 in New York.

A lipid panel, a basic laboratory test, can cost as little as $8 in parts of New York--or as much as $537 in other regions of the same state. A hernia repair, a more complex procedure, can cost as little as $536 in Arkansas or as much as $11,181 for some New Yorkers.

There are conflicting notions as to what causes such price variations. The Government Accountability Office, for example, blames hospitals for geographic price shifts, while outpatient practices tend to have lower prices.

But getting prices from individual providers for services such as imaging can be a challenge, which means leveling prices through competitive transparency is difficult at best. Even in Massachusetts, which mandates price transparency, few hospitals have been able or willing to comply.

To learn more:
- check out the Vitals interactive map