Updated 09 December 2013

Hospitals quote for parking but not procedures

An enterprising surgeon in Philadelphia says he could find out how much parking would cost at 20 hospitals, but only a few would give a quote for a procedure.

New York - People usually don't know what their medical procedures cost until after they leave the hospital and a new study suggests they will have a hard time finding out in advance.

Inspired by an earlier study looking at hip replacement surgery costs, researchers tried to see if consumers could get quotes for a much simpler diagnostic test from Philadelphia area hospitals.

They found that parking prices were readily available by calling the hospital and asking, but only three out of 20 hospitals could provide the cost of an electrocardiogram test.

A professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philidelphia, Dr Josep Bernstein, said: “We were motivated by the Rosenthal study on hip pricing. It was a great study and a real eye opener."

Price quote

The earlier study led by Jaime Rosenthal was published online by JAMA Internal Medicine in February, stating that he had called 120 hospitals for hip replacement surgery and got quotes ranging from $11 000 to more than $125 000.  What was surprising, though, was that more than half of the hospitals could not give him a cost for the surgery at all.

Bernstein said: “"Just like you can't call a contractor on the phone and ask 'how much does it cost to remodel my kitchen?'

Maybe it would be unreasonable to expect a price quote on the phone for 'remodelling' your hip as well," said Bernstein.

Because hip replacement is complex and many factors, such as the patient's health or the type of replacement hip used, can vary, it might be unrealistic to expect a flat price.

(Photo of surgeon from Shutterstock)


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