Study: CABG Prices Vary Widely Among U.S. Hospitals

Higher prices don’t mean better care

Patients undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure could pay vastly different sums for the operation depending on where they have it performed, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that prices for CABG varied more than ten-fold across U.S. hospitals.

The authors obtained “out-of-pocket” price estimates for CABG from a random sample of hospitals for a hypothetical patient without medical insurance. They then compared hospitals’ CABG prices with 1) “fair price” estimates from Healthcare Bluebook data using each hospital's zip code, and 2) the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ composite CABG quality score and risk-adjusted mortality rate.

Of 101 hospitals contacted, 53 (52.5%) provided price estimates for CABG. The prices ranged from $44,824 to $448,038, with a mean of $151,271. The researchers found no association between a hospital’s price for CABG and the average reimbursement from major insurers within the same zip code (P = 0.60), the Society of Thoracic Surgeon’s composite quality score (P = 0.71), or risk-adjusted CABG mortality (P = 0.89).

According to FierceHealthFinance, another study of California hospitals conducted by the CALPIRG Education Fund concluded that pricing variations among hospitals for surgery differed as much as 2.7 times.

In the new report, the authors concluded that “there was no correlation between price information obtained from hospitals and the average reimbursement from major insurers in the same market.” They also found “no evidence to suggest that hospitals that charge higher prices provide better quality of care.”

Sources: FierceHealthFinance; March 20, 2016; and AJC; April 1, 2016.