NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 14, 2006

More than 70 percent of U.S. consumers say they know little or nothing about how much their doctors charge compared to other doctors, according to a survey sponsored by HealthMarkets.

The survey found few people have a sense of how much health care can cost, or how much costs vary from one doctor to another.  For example:

  • Told that the lowest price charged nationwide for a CT scan of the abdomen was $298, most people (73 percent) said the highest price other doctors charge for the same procedure would be no more than $2,000 (the low price was based on actual 2005 HealthMarkets claims data).
  • In fact, the actual charge for the same CT scan varied from $298 to $2,858 -- or almost 10 times as much as the low price -- according to HealthMarkets 2005 claims data.
  • Told that the lowest price charged for a knee replacement was $22,000, 83 percent said the highest price was no more than $66,000.
  • In fact, the actual price charged for a knee replacement varied from $22,000 to $77,239, or more than three times as much as the low price.
  • Only 1 out of 10 respondents correctly guessed the high price range for a tonsillectomy; the low price charged was $2,300 while the high was nearly six times as much, or $13,187.
  • Even the price charged for a new patient office visit can vary greatly, ranging from $60 to more than four times as much, or $261, HealthMarkets data shows.

The survey found strong demand for tools that provide greater transparency for health care services.  Almost 70 percent of people said it would be useful to have online data comparing health care providers.

Source: "The Price is Wrong: Most Americans Significantly Underestimate Health Care Costs, Survey Shows," HealthMarkets, December 14, 2006.

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