For the first time, the federal government has released the prices that hospitals for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. The prices for a given procedure can vary by tens of thousands of dollars.
In the Kansas City region, for example, the price for a hip replacement ranged from less than $25,000 at Truman Medical Center’s Lakewood campus to nearly $80,000 at Research Medical Center.
The president and CEO of the Missouri Foundation for Health, Robert Hughes, says insurance companies use these prices as a starting point for negotiating the much lower rates they actually end up paying.
“The people who are most at risk of having to pay the full list price would be someone who has no insurance and goes in and is not perhaps aware that almost all hospitals will negotiate these list prices.”
Hughes says the data reveal how the fee-for-service system has been working for the past 40 or 50 years.
"The incentives of that system have led to real substantial differences in the prices that hospitals ask for,” says Hughes.
Hughes says it’s the uninsured — who can least afford it — who are most likely to get stuck paying the most.