$10 or $10,000+ for a Blood Test? CA Hospital Charges Vary Widely
the MPR take:
Prices for common blood tests can vary significantly from hospital to hospital, with as much as a thousand-fold difference between two hospitals for the same blood test. A newly published cross-sectional analysis sought to evaluate variations between California hospitals for 10 common blood tests (basic metabolic panel, complete blood cell count with differential white cell count, comprehensive metabolic panel, lipid panel, complete blood cell count (automated), thyroid-stimulating hormone assay, creatine kinase assay, troponin assay, prothrombin time, and thromboplastin time (partial) during 2011. There was a 67% variation in the cost for assays of creatine kinase to 422% for prothrombin time. While a lipid panel had a mean charge of $220, the minimum charge was $10 and the maximum charge was $10,169. Teaching hospitals were associated with significantly lower charges for seven of the 10 blood tests evaluated and five of the 10 tests had lower charges at government hospitals vs. non-profits. The models used in the study predicted only 21% of the variation in hospital charges, with market level characteristics showing no significant impact on charges for any of the tests. Although these prices reflect the charges, not the negotiated prices paid by most health insurance companies, patients without health insurance or privately insured patients seeking out-of-network care should be aware of the potential for cost variations in hospital blood tests.
Design, setting and participants: We 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.