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Knee/hip surgery cost variability news would help more if it provided a link to the Blue Cross Blue Shield report

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association recently published a report “A Study of Cost Variations for Knee and Hip Replacement Surgeries in the U.S. ,” that reported these key findings:

  • Some hospitals across the U.S. charge tens of thousands of dollars more than others for the same medical procedures, even within the same metropolitan market.
  • Their cost can vary by as much as 313%, depending on where the surgeries are performed.
  • A study published in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, found that typical knee replacements more than tripled and that typical hip replacements doubled between 1993 and 2009.
  • In 2011 there were 645,062 typical hip replacements and 306,600 typical knee replacements performed in the U.S., according to a report from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

It was certainly newsworthy material, and I looked at several news stories that did a decent job summarizing the report – by The Washington Post, by Reuters, by USA Today and by Forbes.

But of these four, only Forbes provided readers with a link to the report and the charts that BCBS had prepared, such as this one.

Bummer.

A hyperlink to the original source report is such a little thing, and so easy to include.  It’s difficult to understand why- of these four- only Forbes did so.  So, if you didn’t read the report, I’d say that Forbes offers the best front door to it of the four news organizations I saw.

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Comments (1)

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peggy girshman

January 27, 2015 at 9:55 pm

My problem with all these stories is that, while they can put in caveats, they don’t adequately explain cost vs. hospital chargemaster price vs. “real” price – what providers have negotiated with insurers for each plan the insurers offer vs. what the procedures actually cost the patient, out of pocket. I think those are impossible to get, though i would’ve hoped BCBS could have done better.
i think these omissions can lead the reader to draw conclusions that may not be valid. We do know that, with comparisons like this, it isn’t even relative – the individual hospital “charges” (high or low) don’t even correspond to what insurers actually pay for any particular patient, in no particular pattern. And certainly doesn’t correspond to what patients actually pay.
What’s a journalist to do?