Medical Market Fail

02.11.133:30 PM ET

What's the Price of a Hip Replacement? Nobody Knows

One undergraduate with a telephone can expose the horrifying dysfunction of the American medical marketplace. From the New York Times:

Jaime Rosenthal, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, called more than 100 hospitals in every state last summer, seeking prices for a hip replacement for a 62-year-old grandmother who was uninsured but had the means to pay herself.

The quotes she received might surprise even hardened health care economists: only about half of the hospitals, including top-ranked orthopedic centers and community hospitals, could provide any sort of price estimate, despite repeated calls. Those that could gave quotes that varied by a factor of more than 10, from $11,100 to $125,798.

Ms. Rosenthal’s grandmother was fictitious, created for a summer research project on health care costs.

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