hospital prices


New Fed Data Show Hospital Prices Vary Wildly: The Mass. Version

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(Data visualization above: Alex Kingsbury, WBUR)

Today is a glorious day for health care wonks who see great founts of Medicare numbers as enticing Big Data playgrounds just begging for the analytical equivalent of gymnastics on the monkey bars.

The federal government has just released hospital prices on 100 common procedures, and though many studies have already documented the dramatic cost variation among hospitals — here’s a recent one — the numbers have never before been this accessible. The Washington Post does a wonderful job of providing context and translating some of the data into visual form here, including a useful feature titled  “How much do providers charge in your state?”

Of course I provincially plugged in Massachusetts, and was surprised to see that though we’re reputed to have among the highest costs in the country, we’re below the national average on the 10 categories shown, ranging from pneumonia to heart failure.

WBUR’s Alex Kingsbury puts his data-visualization talents to excellent use on the Medicare data in the map above, showing the variation in costs for treating one condition, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, at each of the state’s hospitals. They range from $8,918 to $52,729. [More on these striking gaps from WBUR’s Martha Bebinger here: Crazy, irrational hospital billing (with no connection to quality.)]

Above, click on each blue pin to see what each facility charges. Or if you’re not a geographical type, you can check out the raw Medicare numbers here, and here’s a list of the data points Alex used: Continue reading