The price tag for a hip or knee replacement at Baptist Healths Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables is bound to cause sticker shock: $208,602, the highest charge for such a procedure at any South Florida medical facility.
A little farther north, the quoted price drops substantially for the same surgery: $65,120 at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Thats about $12,000 less than the national average for a joint replacement with major complications, according to new data the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released this week.
The departments Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services analyzed what 3,337 U.S. hospitals charge for the 100 most-common inpatient procedures covered by Medicare, based on the 2011 fiscal year.
By making public the wildly varying costs of the procedures, the Obama administration said it hoped to increase transparency from healthcare providers and give consumers the power to be smarter shoppers for medical care.
We want to start a dialogue about why, from Florida to Washington state, and even from hospital to hospital in Miami, there are such significant variations in healthcare costs, said Patti Unruh, deputy director of media relations for Health and Human Services.
We dont fully understand the reasons, she said. But we want people to know that, when they go to the hospital for something, there may be another hospital two miles away that charges significantly less. We hope [the new data] gives folks the information they need to do some selective shopping.
Jackson Memorial and the University of Miami Hospital are much less than two miles apart theyre right across from each other along Northwest 12th Avenue but they charge far different prices for the same procedures.
The University of Miami's average cost for a pacemaker implant was $127,000, about twice as much as the $66,000 that Jackson Memorial charged. Treatment for pneumonia cost about $32,000 at Jackson and $60,000 at UM.
Similar cost discrepancies are apparent throughout South Florida and the rest of the country.
In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, inpatient charges to treat heart failure varied from a low of $31,000 at Imperial Point Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale to a high of $110,000 at Coral Gables Hospital. The same treatment in Denver hospitals ranged from a low of $21,000 to a high of $46,000, while the costs ranged from $9,000 to $51,000 in Jackson, Miss. The national average: $34,519.
The price disparities puzzled Jonathan Blum, an administrator with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He said the charges dont seem to make sense to us from a consumer standpoint. Theres no relationship that we see to charges and the quality of care thats being provided.
The pricing variants revealed in the federally released data have the greatest effect on uninsured Americans, who often are billed for the full, hospital-mandated cost.
South Florida healthcare-industry experts said the price data has less of an effect on privately insured consumers, because their health-insurance companies pay pre-negotiated rates for services. Still, insurance companies set their reimbursement rates based on hospital prices; as hospital prices go up, so do premiums.
Hospitals are loath to reveal their pricing lists out of fear of giving competitors a financial advantage.