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Pricey hip, knee surgery no guarantee of better results

CNBC—July 20, 2013

You often don't get what you pay for—at least when it comes to hip- or knee-replacement surgeries.

A new study of 2,750 hospitals across the U.S. found a staggering disparity between what the hospitals officially charge for hip- and knee-replacement surgeries before any insurance adjustments.

One low-volume hospital in California officially charges a whopping $223,373 for such surgeries, while a high-volume hospital in Akron charges just $15,465, according to a survey by the NerdWallet Health cost-comparison Web site.

And hospitals that performed more than 200 of those surgeries annually tended to have lower rates of patients readmitted for complications such as infections than hospitals that did fewer procedures, the survey found.

Those high-volume hospitals also tend to charge less for those surgeries than hospitals that did 25 or fewer per year.


The average official cost for such surgeries across the U.S. is $45,236, NerdWallet Health found. That so-called "hospital charges" price does not take into effect the amounts paid for people covered by insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or for hospitals and state policies for charity cases.

The facility that does the most of these kinds of operations in the nation, by far, is Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, which performs about 3,400 [Medicare only] of them each year. The Hospital for Special Surgery's official charge for such procedures is $53,114, close to the national average. The hospital's Medicare reimbursement rate is $19,024.

Last week, U.S. News and World Report named Hospital for Special Surgery the top orthopaedic hospital in the nation. And in a 2011 review, the New York State Health Department found it had the lowest rate of surgical site infections in the state for hip replacement/revision surgeries.

"We agree that there's a clear correlation between volume and quality," said Louis Shapiro, president of Hospital for Special Surgery. "I see no correlation between price and quality."

Read the full story at cnbc.com.


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