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Pricing Disparities Revealed for Imaging Services

Posted Jun 30 2011 4:01pm
Did you know that prices you pay for a CT and PET scan, MRI, ultrasound and mammogram can vary a great deal from provider to provider – for the exact same service?  You could be paying almost 700% more than you have to for imaging services simply because you don’t have access to healthcare pricing information that enables you to compare prices and shop around to find the best value.  You can save up to $2,000 on just one imaging service by comparing costs across different facilities and selecting the more affordable option.

According to the Healthcare Transparency Index from change:healthcare , significant pricing disparities exist for the most common imaging services at outpatient facilities, freestanding imaging centers and medical offices both from region to region and within the same region.  

Some interesting pricing information revealed in the Healthcare Transparency Index (HCTI):
  • CT Scans: With more than 70 million CT scans performed each year in the U.S., the Index revealed an average of 40 percent possible savings across all regions for patients receiving the three most frequent CT scans (abdomen without contrast, abdomen with contrast, pelvis with contrast) – just by shopping local facilities. The greatest savings potential existed in the Southwest where a patient could pay up to 683 percent more for the same CT scan. However, patients in the Midwest who saw lower variances still paid an extra $290, or 120 percent.
  • MRIs: The Index revealed a 25 percent average savings potential across all regions studied for patients receiving the three most frequent MRIs (lower extremity, brain and lumbar spine) by shopping local facilities. Patients receiving the same MRI in the same area of the Southeast could pay a high of $2,500 and a low of $560.
  • Ultrasound: Shopping local facilities can yield a 28 percent savings for patients receiving the three most frequent ultrasounds (breast, abdomen and transvaginal). The highest price of an ultrasound reported was $700 for an abdominal examination, where the low price in the same area was $120. With an average of three ultrasounds performed per patient just for pregnancy, cost savings to consumers are significant.
  • PET Scans: Generally one of the priciest items in imaging, the Index found that patients across the U.S. could save an average of 36 percent by comparing prices. The reported cost in the Northeast ranged from $3,500 to $4,500, while patients in the Midwest paid a maximum of only $2,500 and a minimum as low as $1,400.
  • Mammography: Consumers could save an average of 17 percent on mammography services per year by switching providers. With roughly 37 million mammograms performed each year and this number expected to rise with the aging U.S. population, insight into actual pricing and options for care could ultimately drive down costs for all of these routine services.
About the Healthcare Transparency Index
The Healthcare Transparency Index (HCTI) provides healthcare consumers with ongoing trends data about actual healthcare costs, offering insight into critical opportunities for savings. The data is sourced from change:healthcare’s proprietary, HIPAA-compliant database generated from client activity. This quarter’s Healthcare Transparency Index includes data derived from more than two million medical claims, totaling $340 million and representing more than 152,000 lives across all 50 states over a 12-month period. The report’s pricing and behavioral content is derived from the change:healthcare Cost Transparency Solution.

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