The data show only hospital facility fees, not physician services, drug costs or patient rehabilitation. Patients and employers pay more with these costs factored in.
But insurance and hospital advocates said that while the study contains new information, it shows only one piece of the complex puzzle behind rising health care costs in Minnesota and across the nation.
Schowalter added that the state did not include what government programs like Medicare and Medicaid pay hospitals for procedures. Those rates are negotiated or set by the government and can have an impact on what hospitals charge consumers.
Minnesotans could pay up to eight times more for certain medical procedures depending on the hospital they choose, but it’s hard to know which facilities offer the most affordable services.
That’s the take away from a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health aimed at making health care costs more transparent. Researchers examined the wide range of prices Minnesotans pay hospitals for four procedures — hip and knee replacements and normal and C-section births.
The cost fluctuation for a hip replacement was almost as large, a difference of more than six times between the most affordable and most expensive. Normal and C-section births had cost swings of four and nearly five times, respectively.
Schowalter, president of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, agreed that the state report looked at a small part of the drivers of growing health care costs. Patients already have other resources to measure provider costs and can often get more information about the expense of certain procedures from their insurer.
“This is eye-opening information for the purchasers of health care,” said Carolyn Pare, who leads the Minnesota Health Action Group, a coalition working to improve health care costs and outcomes, in a statement.
Advocates for health insurers and hospitals say the state analysis has limited value because it only looks at hospital costs when patients often receive ongoing services when they have a condition that requires a medical procedure.