Better Solutions for Healthcare

Twin Cities Pioneer Press: Need a knee replacement? It costs $46,974 at one Minnesota hospital and $6,186 at another

Need a knee replacement? It costs $46,974 at one Minnesota hospital and $6,186 at another
Twin Cities Pioneer Press
By Christopher Magan
January 3, 2018

Minnesotans could pay up to eight times more for certain medical procedures depending on the hospital they choose, but it’s hard to know which facilities offer the most affordable services.

That’s the take away from a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health aimed at making health care costs more transparent. Researchers examined the wide range of prices Minnesotans pay hospitals for four procedures — hip and knee replacements and normal and C-section births.

“This is eye-opening information for the purchasers of health care,” said Carolyn Pare, who leads the Minnesota Health Action Group, a coalition working to improve health care costs and outcomes, in a statement.

But insurance and hospital advocates said that while the study contains new information, it shows only one piece of the complex puzzle behind rising health care costs in Minnesota and across the nation.

“This is a good reminder of something we all know,” said Jim Schowalter, president of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. “The price of health care varies widely and all of it is expensive.”

Knee replacements had the largest cost discrepancy of the procedures examined by the state, with one facility charging a high of $46,974 and another the most affordable at $6,186 — a difference of nearly eight times. The average cost for a knee replacement during the 2014-15 period measured was $23,997.

The cost fluctuation for a hip replacement was almost as large, a difference of more than six times between the most affordable and most expensive. Normal and C-section births had cost swings of four and nearly five times, respectively.

Researchers limited their study to patients without complications who did not have the most severe medical conditions. The department plans to publish the cost of other common procedures later this year.

The data used for the analysis comes from the Minnesota All-Payer Claims Database that records how much 4.3 million consumers paid for more than $1.1 billion in services. The state Department of Health was able to analyze the price of different procedures at different hospitals thanks to legislation passed in 2014 to bring more transparency to health care costs.

The same legislation barred the department from identifying the average costs of procedures at different hospitals. Information about what different insurers pay and the personal information of patients is also protected.

[ Read More … ]