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Jason D. Fodeman: Choosing a $10 medical test over a $10,000 one August 22, 2014

The Washington Times, August 21, 2014

Research published last week in the British Medical Journal Open provides interesting insight into the cause of rising health care costs. Analysis of the study raises concerns that Obamacare could ultimately bend the cost curve up. The University of California at San Francisco research studied variations in the average charges of 10 commonly ordered outpatient blood tests in California hospitals in 2011, using data from the reports of nonfederal, general acute-care California hospitals to the California Office of Statewide Health and Planning Development.

The researchers uncovered significant and substantial variation in hospital charges across the Golden State. For example, the median charge for a basic metabolic panel (a routine laboratory test that includes such tests as sodium, potassium and glucose) was $214. Yet, for the 189 California hospitals that reported this test, the charges ranged between $35 and $7,303.

The authors found an even greater range for the 178 California hospitals that reported the charge of a lipid panel. The median California hospital charged $220 for this test with a range of $10 to $10,169. Hence the maximum charge was more than a thousand times the minimum.

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