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The Cost of an Ankle

Posted by William Jordan, MD, MPH March 4, 2015 at 2:13 PM

A colleague recently asked if I could offer advice for their friend with ankle trouble. The friend was in need of ankle surgery, but the price tag seemed steep. I had to admit, it’s very hard to compare prices in health care.

There is a website that gives you a rough idea of the fair price in your area. It has some prices but not others. The prices vary depending on what insurance you have: www.fairhealthconsumer.org.

There is also a site that gives you an average national price: health.costhelper.com.

Finally, you can look here to see if a specific doctor overcharges (Medicare) for his or her services: projects.propublica.org/treatment.

There is a great series by Elisabeth Rosenthal called “Paying Till It Hurts.” One article suggested flying to Europe is cheaper and better for some surgeries: nyti.ms/1FW9Klu.

If we had clear prices in the US, and knew who did a better job, we could shop around. Sadly, we rarely know the real price, and rarely know who does a better job. Unfortunately, most players in the health industry want to keep prices a secret, as it helps their bottom line. We should demand better.

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