The median charge for a colonoscopy in Virginia ranged from $9,285 to $625 in 2010.
For hysterectomy the median charge ranged from $48,040 to $1,730.
Charges varied significantly even when looking within the same region of the state. In the Roanoke Valley, median charges for knee arthroscopy ranged from $21,138 at LewisGale Medical Center to $3,246 at Blue Ridge Surgery Center in 2010. At Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital the median charge was $10,102 and at Roanoke Ambulatory Surgical Center, where the procedure was performed the most frequently in the region, the median charge was $3,710.
The wide discrepancies in what physician offices, hospitals and surgery centers charge for certain outpatient procedures is highlighted in the latest database released by Virginia Health Information.
The database is intended as a tool for Virginians to have more information about outpatient surgeries so patients can make better and more informed health care choices, VHI said.
Medical charges are a challenging measurement tool because they mostly don’t reflect what someone pays. Nor do the charges reflect what it costs the doctor and facility to do the procedure. Instead, it is the list price.
What a patient pays is typically lower because an insurance company has negotiated a better price.
But even patients without insurance are often paying less. Low income patients can qualify for charity care discounted rates. And self-pay patients can ask for discounts and an article from the Los Angeles Times pointed out recently that many physicians and hospitals offer the steepest discounts for cash-paying patients.
The VHI report includes a note that charges for procedures may be twice as much or more than what health insurance companies may pay.
What are your experiences with charges and costs for medical care? Have you been successful in asking for discounts? What do you make of the new VHI data?