Appendectomies are very common and straightforward procedures that are performed every day. Why, then, are there such discrepancies in how much patients pay for them?
A California study found that the cost of appendectomies across the state ranges from $1,500 to $180,000 with the average cost being $33,000. Interestingly, the authors of the study could not find any discernable rhyme or reason to explain the findings. Some disparities were attributed to treatment location. Differences led to some patients having more imaging studies or longer inpatient hospital stays. But those variables do not account for roughly one-third of the cost variances.
The study focused on data reported by hospitals in 2009 concerning 19,368 patients between the ages of 18 and 59 years old. For consistency purposes, researchers only looked at appendectomy cases without complications and with in-patient hospital stays of less than four days. To determine cost, the study focused on what the patients were billed, not what they were paid by insurance if there was any. The costs were highest for-profit hospitals, non-profits hospitals were next and County hospitals, who typically cannot turn patients away charged the least amounts for the procedures. The costs for uninsured patients and those covered by Medicaid were slightly higher than those patients with private health insurance.
The study conveys interesting statistics but compelling questions remain – why the discrepancies and what can be done to impose rational cost determinations across the board. Any ideas?
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.