You may have heard this week about a new study, led by my friend and colleague Pete Cram, which revealed astonishing variation in prices for hip replacement surgery. Staggering, actually—ranging from a bit over $10,000 to over $125,000. I have blogged a bit about hospital prices, and doctor fees, even a recent post on orthopedic surgery costs in the US. Now these prices are crazy. And to be fair to the hospitals, these were prices for uninsured patients. And frankly: not many uninsured patients pay for hip replacements.
But some people do not have health insurance. And when that happens, they need to be able to shop for care. And that, in my view, raises the even more troubling aspect of this study. Cram and his colleagues discovered that it was really damn hard for patients (in this case, someone making phone calls asking about this operation) to get price estimates. Look at this table, from the paper:
What we have here, friends, is a broken market!