How Much Will My Child’s Operation Cost? Availability of Consumer Prices from US Hospitals for a Common Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgical Procedure

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Medicine and Health Sciences


Context: We aimed to determine the availability of price estimates from hospitals in the United States for a pediatric orthopaedic surgical procedure (closed reduction and pinning of a distal radius fracture), and identify variations in price estimates across hospitals. Objective: Primary objective was to determine if consumers could obtain the price estimates for the procedure. Second, we sought to identify variation in price estimates across hospitals. Design: This prospective investigation used a scripted telephone call to obtain price estimates for the surgery procedure. Setting: We used the 2016-2017 U.S News and World Report rankings to identify 50 “top-ranked” hospitals for pediatric orthopaedic surgery. We identified one “non-top-ranked” hospital from each state using the physician directory from the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. All hospitals were categorized according to region based on state divisions, and teaching status. Methods: Price estimates were requested using a standardized script, where the investigator posed as the mother of a child who required the procedure. Estimates were recorded for each hospital as well as the number of calls and the time required to obtain pricing. Results: 44% of the 101 hospitals provided a complete price estimate. The mean price estimate for top-ranked hospitals ($17,813) was 50% higher than the price estimate for non-top-ranked hospitals ($11,866) (p=0.020). Differences in price estimates were due to hospital fees (p=0.003), not surgeon fees. A longer duration of time was required to obtain estimates from top-ranked hospitals than non-top-ranked hospitals (8.2±9.4 vs. 4.1±5.1 days, p=0.024). Conclusions: Top-ranked hospitals charge approximately 50% more than non-top-ranked hospital. Difference in price estimates between ranked and non ranked hospitals were due estimated hospital fees. It took a top-ranked hospital an average of 8.2 days to complete the request.


Copyright 2018 all authors


The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Philadelphia, PA 19104

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