Hospital prices differ at facilities only miles apart, California analysis shows

Prices for basic procedures vary widely between hospitals, sometimes between facilities that are close in proximity, according to a California Healthline analysis.

Four things to know:

1. Hospitals are now required to post their standard charges online under a CMS price transparency rule. The rule, which took effect Jan. 1, requires hospitals to publish their standard charges on the internet. They must present the information in a machine-readable format that can be easily imported into a computer systemand update the information at least annually.

2. California hospitals already were required to make their standard charges available to patients who requested them. The hospitals must also submit a copy their chargemasters, a list of average charges for 25 common outpatient procedures, and the estimated percentage change in gross revenue due to price changes each summer to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. California hospital charges are publicly available on the health planning and development office's website.

3. Using price lists submitted to the state — the same information CMS now requires hospitals to post under its rule — California Healthline examined four large acute care hospitals in Oakland, Calif., and another four Los Angeles hospitals. Oakland hospitals studied were Highland Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and Kaiser Permanente-Oakland.The Los Angeles hospitals were UCLA Children's Hospital, Kaiser Permanente-Los Angeles, Keck Hospital of USC and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

4. California Healthline said it found a wide range of prices for basic procedures, and sometimes prices for the same procedure varied between hospitals in the same network or between those located within miles of  each other.

For instance, the analysis found the list price on a brain MRI with contrast ranged from $3,211 to $6,772 between the Oakland hospitals and from $3,781 to $8,793 among  the four Los Angeles hospitals. A liter of IV fluid ranged from $56 to $129 between Oakland hospitals and $146 to $383 between Los Angeles hospitals.

Access the full analysis results here.

 

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