As executives at California's embryonic health exchange start looking for health care providers to join the system, they may want to check out a new report comparing hospital charges across the state.
They will find prices for the same surgical procedure to be double, sometimes four times higher, depending on where the hospital is located - even if it's in the same city. And often for reasons that are not easily apparent.
For example, hospitals in the San Mateo area charged a median price of $48,000 for a cesarean section in 2010; in San Diego, the same procedure was priced at $20,000. A hip replacement in Alameda County: $133,000; Orange County: $58,000.
These and other eye-popping differences are contained in a report by the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund in San Francisco, based on prices charged at 236 hospitals in 24 regions for 12 of the most common elective procedures, including C-sections, hip and knee replacements, hysterectomies, angioplasty and radical prostatectomies.