(Forbes Conrad/BLOOMBERG)

A team of researchers at the University of California San Francisco started with a simple question: How much does it cost to get your appendix removed in California? They did not find a simple answer.

The price of appendectomy ranged from as little as $1,529 to as much as $182,955 depending on where it was performed, according to results published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. These results came after the researchers focused their data on 18- to 59-year-olds whose hospitalization lasted fewer than four days, to make sure they culled out any complications.

The price of an appendectomy looked to vary more by individual institution rather than geographic region. “While Fresno County had the smallest range of charges, the lowest and highest charges still differed by a remarkable $46, 204,” the study found.

The authors think this points to the fact that we’re not shopping for price when it comes to health care - and many obstacles stand in the way of doing so. A patient doubled-over in abdominal pain, they write, “is in a poor position to determine whether his or her physician is ordering the appropriate blood work, imaging, or surgical procedure.”

“Price shopping is improbable, if not impossible, because the services are complex, urgently needed, and no definitive diagnosis has yet been made,” the authors conclude. “In our study, even if patients did have the luxury of time and clinical knowledge to ‘shop around,’ we found that California hospitals charge patients inconsistently for what should be similar services as defined by our relatively strict definition of uncomplicated appendicitis.”