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This story certainly illustrates the need for price transparency in health care.

Does this mean a person should comparison shop before a possible emergency event?

I wonder if certain hospitals are lower for all health care services or just for certain specialties?

They found prices can range from $11,100 to almost $126,000 for the same procedure. That is, if the hospital would even provide researchers with a price quote.

For the study, researchers randomly called two hospitals from each U.S. state between May 2011 and July 2012, in addition to calling the top 20 orthopedic hospitals as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. Using a script, they asked for the lowest "bundled price" for an elective total hip replacement for the caller's 62-year-old uninsured grandmother. Each hospital was contacted up to five times and in the cases a hospital would only provide associated hospital costs instead of surgical costs, researchers randomly contacted orthopedic surgery clinics affiliated with the hospitals.

The findings were published Feb. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers found only nine of the top ranked hospitals and 10 of the non-top-ranked hospitals were able to give complete price quotes. At top-ranked hospitals the prices ranged from $12,500 to $105,000 and at non-top-ranked hospitals that provided quotes, prices ranged from $11,100 to $125,798.

Researchers were able to obtain a total of 64 price quotes from the 102-non-ranked hospitals, but with the exception of those 10, they had to call both the hospital and surgeon's practice to price together a quote. Twenty-two of the non-ranked hospitals were able to give partial prices, and 16 could not give any price whatsoever. The study did not look specifically about what factors made a hospital more likely to give a full quote, but the data showed hospitals in the Midwest were more likely to provide a price quote and those in the Northeast were less likely.
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