Medicare payments to hospitals, surgeons vary widely

The Medicare program continues to pay hospitals and individual physicians hugely divergent sums for medical procedures, the Fiscal Times reported.

While Medicare pays hospitals an average of $50,000 per hip surgery, there are few facilities that actually perform such procedures at that consistent price. The procedure can cost as little as $5,303 at the National Medical Center in Oklahoma. But at Monterey Park Hospital just east of Los Angeles, Medicare pays more than $223,000, the Fiscal Times noted, citing data from the research firm NerdWallet.

California in particular attracts outsized Medicare payments. The 10 most expensive hospitals nationwide charged nearly 12 times as much as the least expensive, according to the article. Five of the most expensive hospitals are in California. Overall, the Golden State receives about 69 percent more for medical procedures from Medicare on average than the rest of the country.

Medicare payments received by doctors also vary widely. In 2011, the average surgeon received an average of about $5,000 from Medicare to perform a procedure. But payments ranged from little more than $250 to more than $40,000 per surgery, according to the Fiscal Times.

Very gradually, the U.S. healthcare system is moving toward price transparency. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently released data on the payments most individual physicians received from the Medicare program, and last year released the most popular procedures by hospitals and what they are paid to perform them. 

To learn more:
- read the Fiscal Times article
- check out the NerdWallet hip surgery data