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

Steps Toward Lower Cost, Higher Quality Health Care

(Vic: Flickr)

(Vic: Flickr)

No one seems to have a problem with shopping for the best price when it comes to a new computer or a car. But there’s something about shopping for health care prices that seems different. It’s also a lot harder. Prices aren’t transparent. The L.A. Times reported earlier this month on the challenges individual patients can have in trying to find the best price.

At the same time, consumers have become more concerned about cost. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for family coverage have more than doubled in the last ten years  — 113 percent — and the share the worker pays of the premium is up even more — 131 percent.

The cost of health care has been going up, faster than the rate of inflation. The federal health care overhaul takes aim at this problem and seeks to lower cost and improve quality of care at the same time. One program gaining traction is through focusing insurance design on value. For example, some plans reward healthy behaviors, such as quitting smoking or exercising regularly. Continue reading