Pick the Right Insurer and Your MRI Will Cost $500. Pick Wrong and It Will Cost $1,800.

As we all know, prices for standard procedures in hospitals can vary by enormous amounts. Go to one hospital and your hip replacement will cost $15,000. Go to a different one and it will cost $80,000. And if you’re not insured and have to pay full list price? You better get used to just hobbling around.

But it’s even worse than that. Sarah Kliff points to a new paper that examined hospitals in the Philadelphia area and compared prices within the same hospital for the most standardized procedure imaginable: a lower limb MRI. Here you go:

The price varies from about $400 to $2,800 at different hospitals. But even within a single hospital, the price varies between $500 and $1,800 depending on who your insurer is. That’s because some insurers are able to negotiate better deals than others. Needless to say, these differences may very well translate into different copays and different out-of-pocket costs for patients. And if you have a high-deductible plan, that can mean thousands of dollars.

This might all seem kind of crazy, but it’s the free market at work. And thank God for that. If we had the government interfering and setting prices, everyone would be paying the identical $380 Medicare price for a lower limb MRI, just like they do in France and Japan. There’s no telling what havoc this could wreak on the salaries of hospital CEOs.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate