Friday, August 15, 2014

Chart: Charges for 10 Common Blood Tests in California Hospitals Are All Over the Map

To determine the variation in charges for 10 common blood tests across California hospitals in 2011, BMJ Open conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the degree of charge variation between hospitals for 10 common blood tests using charge data reported by all non-federal California hospitals to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development in 2011.

As you might guess, charges for blood tests varied significantly between California hospitals. For example, charges for a lipid panel ranged from US$10 to US$10 169, a thousand-fold difference. They analyzed charges for between 166 and 189 hospitals, depending on the blood test, as not all blood tests were included in each hospital.  The patient populations were on average 25% Medicaid and 41% Medicare.

In the below chart, the horizontal line in the box is the median. The bow contains the 25-75th percentiles. The lines at the top and bottom are the 5th and 95th percentile. The range is, to be frank, insane. Hence, a comprehensive metabolic panel cost $79 at one hospital and $948 at another.  

This is an Open Access article from BMJ Open.  Hat tip for the pointer to Aaron Carrol at the Incidental Economist