Prices vary widely among Colorado hospitals for joint replacements

Start of conversation on price transparency

A new study of Colorado hospital charges has concluded that the cost for joint replacement surgeries varies widely through the state.

Researchers from the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC). Such surgeries have an an average cost of $78,000 in eight counties in the northeast region of the state. But in the Colorado Springs area, it is only $41,000. In Denver, it averages just $39,000--one-half its cost in other parts of the state. The average Medicare reimbursement is $23,000, according to the Denver Post.

"it is widely accepted that there are significant cost variations in healthcare and that more progress in understanding the drivers of that variation is needed," Colorado Hospital Association spokesperson Cara Welch told the Denver Post. "(The association) believes that the release of the summary data by CIVHC should be the start of the conversation, not the end of it."

Wide price variations among hospitals is not limited to Colorado. A recent study in Massachusetts found similar issues, even though that state has some of the most comprehensive price transparency laws in the nation. That study raised concerns that price variations not only hurt patients because there was little data to correlate prices to quality, but that the variations also drove overall prices upward.

Nationwide, only a handful of states receive anything resembling a passing grade on price transparency from consumer advocacy groups. 

In a statement, CIVHC Chief Executive Officer Ana English observed that "identifying such dramatic fluctuations in prices between payers gives us an opportunity to ask why this is happening, whether it's warranted and where we have opportunities to reduce costs and improve care."

To learn more:
- read the Denver Post article 
- check out the CIVHC study

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