Study finds shocking regional variation in medical charges

Medical providers in different regions of the U.S. routinely charge different fees for the same procedure.

Now, a new report examining these variances is sure to discourage those trying to rein in health insurance plan costs.

The study — of fees for 240 medical procedures in states and cities nationwide — reveals a shocking range of prices charged for the same procedure.

The authors of the study, the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), showed one example: a knee replacement. A commonly used benchmark, the surgery is generally not an emergency procedure, the steps involved are well-documented, and most employer plans cover it. The authors offered these comparisons to highlight the nature of the problem:

Riverside: $30,261
Sacramento: $57,504

Miami: $27,115
Palm Bay: $44,237

New York
Syracuse: $24,131
New York City: $36,584

State-by-state comparisons are eye-popping, with Arizona emerging as generally the least expensive state for most procedures studied. For instance, a knee replacement there costs an average of $21,976 to $38,000 less than charged by health care providers in Sacramento. Alaska is generally the most expensive state, not surprising given the exclusive market providers there enjoy.


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