How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby in California?


Did this baby’s hospital charge $3,300 or $33,000 for delivery — or somewhere in between? (Shingo/Flickr)

The most common reason for hospitalization in the United States is childbirth. A new study published Thursday adds to the depth of research on cost variation in the American medical system.

In the study, researchers at U.C. San Francisco looked at 110,000 uncomplicated births across California and found that hospital charges for a vaginal delivery ranged from $3,296 to $37,227 and for a caesarian section the range was $8,312 to $70,908.

For health policy researchers, this is not a big surprise, said lead author Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF, but “most people that aren’t familiar with health care variation would be surprised and distressed.” Continue reading

How Much for A Hip Replacement? Good Luck Trying to Find Out

X-ray showing a new artificial hip. No, I don't know how much the patient paid for it. (okadots/Flickr)

X-ray showing a new artificial hip. No, I don’t know how much the patient paid for it. (okadots/Flickr)

If you want to buy a new car, you can probably figure out a price range within a matter of minutes with a google search. The same is true for many other products. But in health care, forget it.

In a new study published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers called more than 100 hospitals across the country. They included a range of both top-ranked centers and community hospitals and inquired about a common elective surgical procedure — a hip replacement — for a fictitious 62-year-old grandmother.

First off, only 10 percent of the non-top-ranked hospitals and 45 percent of the top-ranked hospitals were even able to provide a price. Researchers were a bit more successful when they called the hospital and physician separately.

“It is time we stop forcing people to buy health care services blindfolded.”

And just what was the price range? $11,100 on the low end to $125,000 on the high end.

“Patients seeking elective (hip replacement) may find considerable price savings through comparison shopping,” the authors write. No kidding — except that half of the institutions couldn’t even provide a price. Continue reading