Prices for medical services vary widely across US, study finds

Several national outlets reported on the findings of a new study by Castlight Health, which found that prices for medical procedures vary widely by geographic area. The study ranked the affordability of medical care in 35 populous metropolitan areas and detailed the prices for several common medical procedures, which are shown in interactive maps on Castlight’s website.

Coverage focused on the wide range in prices for women’s health services, which was a new addition to the analysis this year.

CBS Evening News reported on the study, which showed that “patients are often charged drastically different prices for the same medical procedures.”

CBS added that Castlight “ranked cities by the price of common women’s services such as office visits, HPV screening, and mammography.

Sacramento, California ranked highest on mammograms at $485, compared to $159 in Cincinnati.”

Fair Health general counsel Michelle Scott said, “There’s a wide range because there are a lot of different circumstances, and the costs may be driven up by other factors – overhead, rental considerations and the methods that different doctors use to perform the procedures.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the study looked at “medical claims data, in addition to provider information and rate sheets that listed the negotiated price between a provider and insurer,” and defined “price” as “the employee cost-sharing plus the amount paid by the employer.”

Kristin Torres Mowat, a Castlight Health vice president, said in a statement that “it’s possible women might forgo basic preventive care due to cost considerations.

Overall, the data demonstrates that medical prices continue to reflect larger systemic problems in the U.S. healthcare system.”

Kaiser Health News reports that the study “did not explain what may be causing the disparities,” but says other sources have identified “a host of influences,” such as insurer “negotiations that are driven by market power as much as the actual cost of care.”

Jonathan Rende, chief of R&D for Castlight, said, “The variation was shocking. It speaks to how broken the health care system is.”

Kaiser says the variation in price is “leaving health care consumers in the dark” and putting them in “weak positions to shop around as most medical professionals and insurers do not publish actual prices or make it easy to get quotes.”

Kaiser adds that “physicians rarely consider price,” as patients “frequently defer to their doctors’ recommendations.”

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2015. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

 

 

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