Minnesota hospital has up to 7-fold price difference for same surgery

At the same Minnesota hospital, a patient could pay two to almost seven times as much as another patient for the same procedure, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The report, which is the department's second analysis in its examination of state hospital prices, considers prices paid from July 2014 to June 2015 for four common procedures: spinal fusion surgery, major bowel surgery, appendectomy and removal of uterine fibroids.

The department found that within the same hospital, prices for spinal fusion surgery and major bowel surgery varied by threefold or more. At the most expensive hospital, prices for a bowel procedure ranged from roughly $14,500 to $68,800. Prices for a spinal fusion at the most expensive hospital ranged from $27,600 to $80,800.

For some procedures, there was a sevenfold variation in price, meaning a difference from about $7,000 to nearly $70,000. The department said hospitals with the lowest average price also exhibited considerable variations.

For its report, the department combed data from the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database, which contains unidentified data from more than 1.1 billion healthcare transactions. Researchers compared claims from commercially insured patients with minor or moderate clinical complexity. 

Prices in the most recent report include fees paid to hospitals for inpatient treatment and physician services. Hospitals and providers aren't named in the report, as mandated by Minnesota law.

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