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Availability and Variability of Consumer Prices for Lumbar Discectomy Across US Hospitals in 2018


  • Alexander J. Butler

    (University of Miami Hospital)

  • Caroline J. Granger

    (University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine)

  • Sebastian Rivera

    (University of Miami Hospital)

  • Chester J. Donnally

    (Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University)

  • Alexander Ghasem

    (Emory Orthopedics and Spine Center)

  • Deborah Li

    (University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine)

  • Michael Y. Wang

    (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine)


Objective To determine the availability and variability of consumer pricing data for an elective lumbar discectomy in the USA. Methods Hospital representatives were contacted via telephone, hospital websites, and state price-transparency websites. A total of 153 hospitals were contacted via telephone calls under the guise of a patient requesting a self-pay price for elective lumbar discectomy. The same hospitals were then researched for price comparison between those requested by phone and those listed on hospital websites after installment of the price transparency law by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on 1 January 2019. Complete and partial prices were recorded for both datasets when available. Hospitals were grouped based on profit status, teaching status, and geographical region. Statistical analysis compared rates of price availability and mean prices between hospital groups and between datasets. Results Thirty-four (23.0%) of 148 hospitals included in the final analysis were able to provide complete price information via telephone. An additional 70 (47.3%) were able to provide a partial price. A total of four (2.7%) institutions provided a complete price and an additional 65 (43.9%) provided a partial price via website. The mean complete price for microdiscectomy when provided was $27,342.36 (n = 34). When compared to government and non-profit hospitals combined, private hospitals had significantly lower partial-prices. Conclusion A patient seeking to undergo a common surgical procedure in the USA will likely be met with difficulty and few options if motivated by price. A high degree of variability exists among US hospitals in 2018 with regards to availability and comprehensiveness of pricing information.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander J. Butler & Caroline J. Granger & Sebastian Rivera & Chester J. Donnally & Alexander Ghasem & Deborah Li & Michael Y. Wang, 2021. "Availability and Variability of Consumer Prices for Lumbar Discectomy Across US Hospitals in 2018," Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 81-96, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:aphecp:v:19:y:2021:i:1:d:10.1007_s40258-020-00592-7
    DOI: 10.1007/s40258-020-00592-7

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    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Chris Sampson’s journal round-up for 1st February 2021
      by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2021-02-01 12:00:03

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