Wide Variation Seen in Out-of-Pocket Costs for Imaging

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Wide Variation Seen in Out-of-Pocket Costs for Imaging
Wide Variation Seen in Out-of-Pocket Costs for Imaging

MONDAY, May 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The out-of-pocket price for a standard chest X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or ultrasound can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on where the imaging is done, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Radiology, held from May 15 to 19 in Washington, D.C.

Mindy Licurse, M.D., and William Boonn, M.D., from the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, focused on three commonly ordered exams: two-view chest X-rays; CT scans of the abdomen/pelvis with contrast; and pelvic ultrasounds.

Across hospitals and imaging centers in three states, X-ray costs varied from a low of $41 to a high of $285. CT scan costs ranged from $437 to $2,239, while ultrasounds went from $150 to $592, the researchers found. Hospital pricing, when provided, was consistently higher for all procedures. For example, the average hospital price for an X-ray was $140, compared with $76 at an imaging center. Similarly, average CT scan and ultrasound prices were $1,146 and $442, respectively, at hospitals, compared with $586 and $263, respectively, at independent facilities.

"Our study certainly contributes to the underlying hypothesis that pricing information within health care, specifically imaging in this case, may be difficult to obtain depending on the setting, and therefore comparison-shopping by patients is limited," Licurse told HealthDay. Price transparency could contribute to containment of health costs "by improving cost awareness among both physicians as well as patient consumers, possibly leading to lowering of prices for the sake of remaining competitive."

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