CHICAGO (February 11, 2013)—Researchers have released a study after contacting 122 hospitals in every state and asking what a routine replacement surgery on a healthy patient without insurance would cost.
The price tags for the procedure ranged from as little as $11,000 to as much as nearly $126,000.
The callers pretended they were getting the quote for a grandmother who was uninsured, but could afford to pay out of pocket.
The researchers were able to obtain a complete price estimate including physician fees from close to half the hospitals, but in most cases, they had to contact hospitals and doctors separately.
About 15 percent of hospitals did not provide any price estimates, even after a researcher called back as many as five times.
The study, published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that many hospitals "are completely unprepared" for costs questions.
One of the authors of the report says most hospitals aren't intentionally hiding costs; they're just not used to patients asking.
U.S. insurance companies typically negotiate to pay less than the billing price.
Insured patients' health plans determine what they pay, while uninsured patients may end up paying the full amount.