When you shop for groceries or clothes, you can choose what you buy based on price.
But when it comes to health care — arguably one of the most important services that impact our quality of life — no such luxury exists. There are no clear prices and little choice, especially if you are restricted to a certain doctor or hospital by your insurance plan.
Earlier this month, the federal government released a massive database of prices hospitals charge Medicare, aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the powerful health care industry. The information, released for the first time ever, put a spotlight on the exorbitant price of health care, and the wide variation in what consumers can expect to pay when they get sick or injured, including in San Diego.
For example, a new pacemaker at San Diego’s Scripps Mercy Hospital will cost you $86,000, but it will set you back $139,000 at Sharp Chula Vista. If you get pneumonia or pleurisy, a type of chest infection, you can expect to pay $27,000 at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, but $41,623 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, even though they’re part of the same nonprofit system. The price tag for a complex procedure like a drug-coated stent insertion, used to prevent clogged coronary arteries, varies at San Diego hospitals from $50,000 at UC San Diego Medical Center to $120,000 at Sharp Chula Vista