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

Alexander J. Butler, Caroline J. Granger, Sebastian Rivera, Chester J. Donnally, Alexander Ghasem, Deborah Li, Michael Y. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Health Economics and Health Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Health Policy


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