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Toohey, 54, said his health insurance covered most of the costs, and it didn’t occur to him to ask about price beforehand. He was back at work two weeks later and is pain free. That’s what matters most to him.

“I never really looked or paid attention” to the cost, he said.

He paid about $7,900, but wasn’t sure what the total bill amounted to.

The average charge for hip replacement surgery at Loyola is about $42,000, before the negotiated insurance rates. The most expensive items on a typical hip replacement bill include about $11,000 for the hip implant, said Richard Kudia, Loyola’s vice president of patient financial services

Kudia said some patients do ask in advance about costs of surgery and other medical procedures, and those questions require “a little bit of research” to come up with an average estimate. Costs vary from center to center because “there is no standard pricing among hospitals across the country. Each hospital develops its own pricing depending on its market,” he said.

An editorial accompanying the hip replacement study said “there is no justification” for the huge cost variation the researchers found.

A few online sites provide price comparisons for common medical procedures, but the editorial said that kind of information “is of almost no value” without information on hospital quality.

A proposed federal measure that would have required states to force hospitals to make their charges public failed to advance in Congress last year but could be revived this year, the editorial says.

“It is time we stopped forcing people to buy health care services blindfolded,” the editorial said.

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Online:

Journal: http://www.jamainternalmed.com