Hospitals’ Price Quotes for Hip Replacement Surgery Vary by Over $100,000

Hospitals either could not provide a price quote for total hip replacement surgery or quoted prices that varied by over $100,000, according to a study the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published on its Internal Medicine website, titled “Availability of Consumer Prices From US Hospitals for a Common Surgical Procedure.” Now that consumers are being asked to help keep health care costs down, the JAMA researchers, posing as typical consumers, wanted to see if they could get hospital price estimates on a common elective surgical procedure as well as whether prices would vary widely.

JAMA Study

The JAMA researchers randomly contacted two hospitals from each state and Washington, DC that perform hip replacement surgery as well as the 20 top-ranked American orthopedic hospitals. They asked about the price of the surgery for a 62-year old woman without health insurance. The researchers received complete price information from nine top-ranked hospitals and from 10 non-top-ranked hospitals, and they were able to piece together complete price information from three more top-ranked hospitals and from 54 non-top-ranked hospitals by contacting physicians and hospitals separately. Thus, they did not receive complete price information from 46 hospitals out of the 122 studied. The complete prices quoted varied widely for both top-ranked hospitals, ranging from $12,500 to $105,000, and for non–top-ranked hospitals, ranging from $11,100 to $125,798.

JAMA interviewers used a standard script and telephoned hospitals, asking about total out-of-pocket costs for their uninsured 62 year old “grandmother.” Each hospital was contacted up to five times to obtain pricing information.


The JAMA study concluded that it is difficult for patients doing comparison shopping to obtain price information. Hospital representatives, who were often confused and uncertain, could not provide reasonable price estimates. Less than one-half of top-ranked hospitals and one-third of non–top-ranked hospitals were able to provide a complete price during the first or second telephone call. The JAMA study noted that it is now much easier for consumers to research hospital rankings and quality of care results than pricing information. The JAMA study also noted that its findings mirror a 2011 Government Accountability Office study on the difficulty in obtaining hospital pricing information.