Hospital charges bear little relationship to the quality of the care, study says

July 22, 2013

It’s well known that the charges hospitals list for surgeries and other procedures bear little resemblance to the actual prices most patients pay. An analysis by Castlight Health, a company that helps employers and workers compare prices, has found that the charges also bear little relationship to the quality of the care.

Castlight focused on hospitals’ charges for a joint replacement that didn’t involve major complications. The company compared hospitals’ average charges to a safety score the company calculated from Medicare data. (Those data include information about patients hospitalized for things other than a joint replacement.) That score combines hospitals’ rates of serious complications, infections and other potentially avoidable health problems.

The data collected for New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington show that an expensive charge for a joint replacement is no guarantee that the hospital is safer than one that lists a cheaper charge. The Boston and Washington rates show that the most-expensive high-quality hospital will replace a knee for less than the most-expensive hospitals with low- and average-quality scores. Overall, Castlight said there was no statistical relationship between the charges for the knee replacements and the quality of the hospitals.

A similar analysis for pregnancy care found no noticeable relationship between the price that self-insured companies paid for pregnancy and delivery services and the quality of the care as judged by data from the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit run by employers. Those data looked at such factors as whether babies were delivered at term and without needless Caesarean sections.

“There’s no correlation between what you pay and what you get,” said Jennifer Schneider, Castlight’s senior director of clinical design. “You could actually get an above-average delivery from a below-average place in terms of cost.”

Kaiser Health News

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read National