Better Solutions for Healthcare

Pioneer Press: One patient paid $12,326 for a spinal fusion surgery, another $80,518 – at the same hosptial

One patient paid $12,326 for a spinal fusion surgery, another $80,518 – at the same hospital

Pioneer Press
August 9, 2018

The cost of four common inpatient surgeries can vary by more than six times at the same Minnesota hospital.

That is a key takeaway from the Minnesota Department of Health’s latest examination of the cost of medical care. One patient might pay $12,326 for a spinal fusion surgery and another patient in the same hospital might have a bill for $80,518.

Prices for procedures also vary widely among different hospitals. The average cost of that spinal fusion surgery ranges from $26,803 at one facility to $58,770 at another.

Researchers used a state database of health care claims to examine the cost of four common and “clinically uncomplicated” procedures including spinal fusions, major bowel surgery, appendectomies and the removal of uterine fibroids. Patients with complex health issues that could drive up the cost of care were excluded from the analysis.

Their findings show what Minnesota patients pay doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with the total cost of care.

“The lack of a link between a price and the cost of a service … I think that is very dissatisfying for a consumer,” said Stefan Gildemeister, director of the state’s health economics program. “To some extent, I think it is a sign of a system that is not working well.”

The state Department of Health closely examines the cost of care so it can make informed policy recommendations to state leaders, Gildemeister said. Breaking down costs is also a big question from businesses and organizations that provide employees with health insurance.