For years, patients have complained they often do not know how much hospitals charge for healthcare services until they are billed, unlike other commercial products such as gasoline, clothes or housing.
But published hospital prices show wide variations in prices — up to eight times — for the same care, demonstrating to advocates that price transparency can help consumers shop for the best prices.
For example, the cash price for a hip or knee replacement is $17,448 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and $12,035 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. That same procedure is priced at $48,911 at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Oakland in Pontiac and $49,265 at DMC's Harper-Hutzel Hospital in Detroit, according to Turquoise Health, a San Diego-based health technology company.
An MRI chest scan could cost $212 at Garden City Hospital and $312 at multiple Henry Ford Health System hospitals. Go to Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor and that MRI could cost $1,300 or at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital you might pay $3,019.
Colonoscopies, another common procedure, can range from $1,700 to more than $5,000 for negotiated insurer prices, according to a study published Aug. 11 in Health Affairs. Michigan State University in East Lansing and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore used the database compiled by Turquoise Health.
Researchers in July found only 1,225 hospitals, 25 percent of general acute care hospitals, disclosed negotiated prices for colonoscopies.
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In metro Detroit, colonoscopies ranged from a cash price of $493 at any Beaumont Health hospital to $13,071 at DMC Receiving Hospital, according to Turquoise. The average Medicare reimbursement rate is $793. And cash prices are often far lower than negotiated insurer rates, according to an October New York Times investigation.
"High service prices result in high out-of-pocket expenditure for commercially insured patients, especially those enrolled in high-deductible health plans, and raise health plan premiums for the beneficiaries," the researchers wrote.