Study: Cost of procedures at MN hospitals can vary as much as 8-fold

- Healthcare prices can vary widely in Minnesota, with some hospitals asking for more than eight times what others charge for the same procedure, according to a new study from the Department of Health and a number of state employers.

The report looked at prices for four of the most common procedures hospitals perform, finding wild swings aided by a lack of consumer information available to patients. 

"That's crazy, isn't it?" Vice President of Minnesota Health Action Group Deb Krause said. "It's shocking .. you want to know there's a sense of fairness and not see that high variation in cost."

If you're a mother who's had a C-section, you may have paid something like $4,700--with others seeing their bill rise to nearly $23,000. The same goes for knee replacements, which can run the average Minnesotan between $6,200 and $47,000, depending on the hospital. 

"By paying more you're not necessarily getting higher quality care," Krause said. "If we could get this addressed it would benefit all of us."

State Health Economist Stefan Gildemeister says that this variation is at least partially caused by a lack of transparency surrounding hospital prices, especially here in Minnesota. The MDH study is based the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database, which isn't available publicly like similar information is in other states.

"It's a fair question to ask, 'Should the data be more widely available?'" Gildemeister said. "[Though] it could upset the healthcare market quite a bit if some information is available."

The Minnesota Hospital Association did point out in a statement Wednesday that Minnesota is ranked among the best states for both health care quality and health care cost by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, making the state's health care system comparatively more affordable than other states. 

Calling your insurance company remains the best way to obtain accurate information about healthcare costs, according to the MHA, as well as checking your Health Score as calculated by nonprofit Minnesota Community Measurement.

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