Healthcare Price Disparities: A Mammogram Can Cost From $43 to $1,898

The price disparities for common healthcare tests or procedures are inexplicably getting wider, depending on where you live in the U.S., according to a new study of healthcare costs in the most populous metro areas.

The study by Castlight Health found, for example, that the price of a mammogram in Dallas ranges from $50 to a whopping $1,045. And in Chicago, the charge for seeing a primary care doctor for a routine exam can be only $50 or up to $423.
Nationally, a woman could pay anywhere from $43 to $1,898 for a mammogram, a difference of 44-fold.
In New York City, there was an astounding 76x difference between what consumers paid to have the same lipid panel (cholesterol test) done, ranging from $14 to $1,070. That was the highest national range among the eight procedures reviewed.
Over the past year, the average price of the cholesterol test increased in all but one of the 30 cities, and increased a whopping 282 percent in San Francisco, 214 percent in Sacramento, and 198 percent in Pittsburgh.
“This study has data that is vital to understanding how broken the U.S. healthcare system really is, and we sincerely hope that employers and consumers take note. The only way that employees and their employers can even begin to manage healthcare spend is by understanding how much it costs,” said Giovanni Colella, M.D., co-founder and chief executive officer at Castlight Health.
Here are other examples:
In Washington, D.C., the price for a head/brain CT scan ranged from $78 to $1,673, a 21x difference. However, with an average price of $592, the D.C. area was the least expensive for the procedure. The test was on average the most expensive in Indianapolis and Charlotte at more than $1,300. Both cities experienced more than 100% increase in prices over the past year.
In New York City, the price of a lower-back MRI ranged from $334 to $3,939, nearly a 12x disparity. Indianapolis was on average the most expensive ($2,307) and saw more than a 100% increase in prices over the past year.
In Chicago, the price to get a routine exam at a primary care physician was the widest of any city, ranging from $50 to $423, an 8x difference. The survey found that getting a physical was most expensive in Minneapolis and San Francisco, and cheapest in Miami and Orlando.
See the full report here.

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