A Couple of Graphical Lessons From the Government’s Huge Hospital Chargemaster Data Dump

Today the government released data showing how much different hospitals charge for the same procedure. I’ve been struggling since last night to figure out what to say about this, since in one way there’s no news here. The fact that there are huge disparities has been well known for quite a while. This new data simply lays it out in more mind-numbing detail than usual. For now, then, I’m just going to offer up a couple of good graphical presentations that I’ve seen. The first is your basic map, courtesy of the New York Times. I zoomed in on Los Angeles here:

Take a look in the hospitals in the middle. There’s a disparity of 2-4x in pricing between hospitals that are only a couple of miles apart. Why? Some is probably due to the nature of the cases they take, and the amount of unpaid work they do. But 2-4x? What accounts for this? Part of the answer comes from the chart below, courtesy of the Washington Post:

This doesn’t explain everything, but it explains a fair amount. The private sector, we’re told, is always more efficient than the public sector. Competition, you understand. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the healthcare industry. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions.