Wall Street Journal Examines Price Discrepancies for Health Care Services
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday examined the difficulty some consumers face in shopping around for medical procedures, as well as the wide discrepancy of prices for medical services. The Journal compared the charges for a lower-lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging test and a routine mammogram at "a dozen diagnostic-testing facilities in the New York City area" (Chao, Wall Street Journal, 9/8). Charges for MRIs ranged from $950 to $1,600, while charges for mammograms ranged from $155 to $280 (Wall Street Journal graphic, 9/8). According to the Journal, physicians do not usually consider the price of medical tests or procedures when recommending specific centers or hospitals, despite the variance in price, and doctors connected with hospitals often prefer in-house testing.
Medical facilities often do not always quote accurate prices for tests or procedures, the Journal reports. In addition, quoted rates were often pre-negotiated rates, which are rates paid by uninsured patients, and negotiated rates, paid by insured patients, were not always available because they are often negotiated after the procedure has been performed, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 9/8).