Big variety found in charges for blood tests

Aug 19, 2014 By Roni Caryn Rabin, Kaiser Health News

One California hospital charged $10 for a blood cholesterol test, while another hospital that ran the same test charged $10,169 -- over 1,000 times more.

For another common blood test called a basic metabolic panel, the average hospital charge was $371, but prices ranged from a low of $35 to a high of $7,303, more than 200 times more.

The wide disparity in hospitals' listed charges for routine blood tests at California hospitals was revealed in a study published in the August issue of BMJ Open. The study examined the listed charges for routine blood tests performed in 2011.

Researchers said their analysis found no rational explanation for the stark variation in listed prices, though teaching hospitals and government hospitals generally set lower charges than other facilities.

"People say our health care system needs to be more marketplace-driven, but the charging system and payment system are irrational," said Dr. Renee Hsia, the paper's lead author, an associate professor at University of California.

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