The cost for the same service varies greatly across the 30 most populous U.S. cities, according to a new analysis from Castlight Health.
The analysis focused on costs paid through employer-sponsored benefits for common outpatient services, including a lipid panel, a CT scan, an MRI and an adult preventive primary care visit.
It found a CT scan of the head/brain in Sacramento costs an average of $1,404, while the price tag in Orlando is $611, for example. For a lipid panel, Indianapolis was the most expensive city with a cost of $89, and Pittsburgh was the least expensive at $19.
"Many Americans believe if they select an 'in-network' doctor from their company's health plan they are assured of paying less, or think that healthcare prices vary across the country but not in their backyard," Jennifer Schneider, M.D., vice president of Strategic Analytics for Castlight Health, said in a statement. "This analysis dispels both those myths."
The need for greater transparency to drive down healthcare prices is apparent, since consumers usually have no idea how much procedures and services cost. For example, arthroscopic knee surgery cost an average of $2,406 in 2008 at a hospital in New Hampshire, yet patients were charged as much as $3,600, according to U.S. News & World Report.
To combat the cost variations, healthcare leaders should implement enhanced technological features, such as telehealth, to improve patient care while lowering costs, notes U.S. News & World Report. Further, advances in billing and record-keeping technology can help drive down costs.
Insurers could help slow down the rate of rising costs by urging their networked doctors and hospitals to only implement technologies with proven efficacy, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.