As is the case in most parts of the country, hospital prices in Washington state are all over the map, with multiples of three or four between facilities for the same procedure.
A knee or hip replacement surgery, for instance, costs $92,000 at Multicare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup--four times the cost of the identical surgery at Wenatchee Valley Hospital, according to the Washington Health Alliance, a not-for-profit advocacy group, which released the price data for the state's hospitals. The data was culled from Medicare reports from 2011 and 2012.
"Understanding hospital sticker prices in advance of a hospital stay can help both insured and uninsured patients reduce sticker shock," John Gallagher, a spokesperson for the organization, told the Seattle Times.
The average bill for stroke care at Washington hospitals ranged from $10,835 to as high as $37,066--a 342 percent differential, according to the alliance's data.
Price variations among hospitals is no surprise. Prices among California hospitals for the same procedures varied as much as a factor of 2.7 times, according to a 2012 report by the CALPIRG Education Fund.
However, Medicare actually pays the hospitals far less--in the case of Multicare, less than a quarter of what it billed. As for the stroke patients, the program pays the hospitals between $3,703 to $7,583 per discharged patient.
But all the flying price data only serves to hurt patients, according to the alliance.
"Reducing the cost of healthcare is a top priority of our organization," said Nancy A. Giunto, executive director of the alliance, in a statement. "But as a community, we cannot reduce costs if we don't know them. The results of this report confirm what the alliance and others in the healthcare community have always suspected: Just as there is with quality, there is significant variation in pricing among hospitals."