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Last week the Obama administration started publishing comparative data on what more than 3,000 hospitals across the nation charge for services — information that has long been hidden from consumers. And the results were pretty shocking.

medicare-pillAs Modern Healthcare reports, the data show enormous disparities in what hospitals charge for the same treatments — not just from region to region, but even among hospitals in the same metropolitan area. Treatment for kidney and urinary tract infections, for example, typically costs $40,902 at suburban Atlanta hospital, compared with just $7,682 at a neighboring medical center. And one suburban Los Angeles hospital charges $24,176 for treatment of septicemia, a life-threatening blood infection, while another hospital less than 20 miles away charges $216,438.

Related: 29 States Get an ‘F’ for Keeping Health Costs Hidden

Jonathan Blum, acting deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which gathered the data, bluntly told reporters: “There’s no relationship that we see to charges and the quality of care that’s being provided.” Even the American Hospital Association acknowledged that the systems by which hospitals decide what to charge for services “urgently need updating.”

But while the disparities are scandalous, the cumbersome manner in which the federal government provided the data — a downloadable spreadsheet — may only add to the frustration of consumers who want to make use of the information to avoid being fleeced. Fortunately, though, a new website, OpsCost.com, is now offering to crunch the numbers and allow you to compare the charges at various hospitals in your area.

All you have to do is type in the metropolitan area in which you live and select from a pull-down menu of 100 different health-care procedures. A search of 10 hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area, for example, reveals that the cost for implanting a pacemaker ranges from $13,101 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., to $22,390 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md.

The new website actually is a side project for the developers of RentMetrics.com, a site that compares real estate rental data for developers and investors.

“We saw the data get released and realized how important it was,” cofounder George Kalogeropoulos explained in an article on the Fiscal Times website. “But [we] also saw that it was only available in a relatively inaccessible format. The site has gained a lot of traction.”

 

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