AUGUSTA- Today, The Maine Heritage Policy Center – Maine’s premier free market think tank – unveiled its latest research publication, Healthcare Costs in Maine. The report compares prices for common medical procedures between thirty-three hospitals and exposes substantial price variation between facilities.
Health care costs in Maine are among the highest in the nation, and consumers continue to face surging premiums and deductibles. Average annual health care spending per person reached $8,521 in 2009, with total aggregate expenditures surpassing $11 billion. In 2014, Maine ranked 11th nationally in terms of personal health care spending per capita. Meanwhile, health insurance premiums have risen sharply. In the individual market in Maine, average monthly premiums per person were $335.61 in 2013, 43 percent more than the national average and a 12 percent increase since 2010.
Now, more than ever, consumers need to be aware of price disparities between providers. Across the country, researchers have revealed enormous – and seemingly arbitrary – price variation in the health care market. In 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released data that, according to Fierce Health Finance, a health news organization, “highlighted dramatic price variances including charges ranging from $5,300 to $223,000 for a joint replacement in different states and prices for heart-failure treatment ranging from $9,000 to $51,000 in the same city.” Yet consumers remain largely unaware that such disparities exist.
Healthcare Costs in Maine demonstrates that wide price variation exists between hospitals in Maine and identifies – drawing on data from the twenty most commonly-performed medical procedures provided by the Maine Health Data Organization – the most expensive hospitals (Aroostook Medical Center, Stephens Memorial Hospital, and Cary Medical Center), as well as the most affordable (York Hospital, Central Maine Medical Center, and MaineGeneral Medical Center). Procedures like a knee replacement, for example, range in price from $35,774 to $50,454, with modest variation occurring based on location, hospital size and rurality.