Study: CABG prices vary widely among hospitals

Patients undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure could pay vastly different sums for the operation depending on where they have the operation, according to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology.

The authors used pricing information from the Healthcare Bluebook to compare prices at 101 hospitals in the U.S. and found the median price for a CABG procedure was $151,271. However, prices among the hospitals ranged from  $44,824 to $448,038.

The variation was significantly greater than for joint replacement surgery. A 2014 study by the National Institute for Health Care Reform found only a two-fold difference in price variations, although fewer hospitals were included in that study when compared to the CABG study.

Another study of California hospitals conducted by the CALPIRG Education Fund concluded that pricing variations among hospitals for surgery differed as much as 2.7 times. 

"There was no correlation between price information obtained from hospitals and the average reimbursement from major insurers in the same market," the study concluded. "We also found no evidence to suggest that hospitals that charge higher prices provide better quality of care." There was only a "weak" correlation with geography and price.

Critics of wide price variations among hospitals say they make it difficult for patients to appropriately budget for their care, and can be disruptive to consumer-driven healthcare.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract