A recent report by the Health Care Cost Institute revealed that healthcare costs continue to vary widely throughout the United States. The report analyzed the costs for the most common hospital procedures in 41 states, showing that identical procedures may cost nearly twice as much in different areas of the country.
Among the states with the most costly medical care were Alaska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. In these states, nearly twenty percent of all procedures cost twice the national average. With the lowest overall healthcare costs were Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee. In these states, nearly all healthcare services were below the national average.
The story doesn't end there. Prices also varied more widely when looking at specific procedures. The price of a knee replacement varies nearly $10,000 between the most expensive and least expensive quarters of the market. Overall, the greatest price differences were found for imaging, radiology and laboratory tests.
Most surpisingly, prices for common procedures varied widely within the same state. One of the most remarkable examples can be found in California. The cost of a knee replacement in Sacramento averages $57,500 while just six hours south in Riverside, the same procedure costs (a mere) $30,000. This is a $27,500 difference for just a six hour car trip.
Some differences in price may be justified due to variability in the overall cost of living in different areas. However, much of the disparity is still tied to factors such as a lack of transparency or the lack of alternative providers in a region.
Moving forward, researchers and policy makers hope to identify and solve the problems underlying unjustified disparities in medical costs nation wide.