by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | June 17, 2021
Now that hospitals are required by law to post cash prices for all items and services they provide on their website, Silicon Valley's Hospital Pricing Specialists has discovered a staggering cost disparity for abdominal ultrasound exams across the country.
According to their report, the national average price for an abdominal ultrasound is $745. The most expensive abdominal ultrasound scans are in Florida where the average price is $2,295. In New Jersey, the same ultrasound exam will cost $319.
"Hospital machine-readable pricing files are a black box," said Rick Louie, managing director of Hospital Pricing Specialists, in a statement. "Only with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning were we able to crack open the black boxes and compare data across hospitals."
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The findings are based on 2,078 hospitals that had machine-readable files on their websites. Less than 30% of the machine-readable files included the total bundled charges for outpatient surgeries, as required by the new law. For example, the price for a colonoscopy procedure should be inclusive of all associated services, such as anesthesia, operating room time, laboratory, and radiology. Unfortunately, in most machine-readable files, this was not the case.
Since the cash price for an ultrasound of the abdomen (Current Procedural Terminology code 76700) was a common item, occurring over 85% of the time within the machine-readable files, that was what they focused on.
After Florida, the most expensive abdominal ultrasound exams were found to be in Texas ($1,269), Delaware ($1,155) and Arizona ($1,125). The least expensive after New Jersey were Montana ($351), Louisiana ($358) and Hawaii ($365).
According to Hospital Pricing Specialists, CMS has signaled that forthcoming clarifications will be released on the machine-readable file to ensure consistency in content and file structure layout across all hospitals. However, until these clarifications are released and implemented, only vendors with access to advanced artificial intelligence software would be able to analyze the existing machine-readable files and make observations such as these.