New Fed Data Show Hospital Prices Vary Wildly: The Mass. Version

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[googlemap url=",-72.029114&spn=1.162341,2.90863&z=8"]

(Data visualization above: Alex Kingsbury, WBUR)

Today is a glorious day for health care wonks who see great founts of Medicare numbers as enticing Big Data playgrounds just begging for the analytical equivalent of gymnastics on the monkey bars.

The federal government has just released hospital prices on 100 common procedures, and though many studies have already documented the dramatic cost variation among hospitals — here's a recent one — the numbers have never before been this accessible. The Washington Post does a wonderful job of providing context and translating some of the data into visual form here, including a useful feature titled  "How much do providers charge in your state?"

Of course I provincially plugged in Massachusetts, and was surprised to see that though we're reputed to have among the highest costs in the country, we're below the national average on the 10 categories shown, ranging from pneumonia to heart failure.

WBUR's Alex Kingsbury puts his data-visualization talents to excellent use on the Medicare data in the map above, showing the variation in costs for treating one condition, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, at each of the state's hospitals. They range from $8,918 to $52,729. [More on these striking gaps from WBUR's Martha Bebinger here: Crazy, irrational hospital billing (with no connection to quality.)]

Above, click on each blue pin to see what each facility charges. Or if you're not a geographical type, you can check out the raw Medicare numbers here, and here's a list of the data points Alex used:

Average Cost Of Treating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease:
These listings come from a database released on Wednesday by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


Mt. Auburn Hospital

$15, 132
Sturdy Memorial Hospital

Lawrence General Hospital

Cambridge Health Alliance

Cape Cod Hospital

Cooley Dickinson Hospital

Bay State Franklin Medical Center

Carney Hospital

Harrington Memorial Hospital

St. Anne's Hospital

Holyoke Medical Center

Anna Jaques Hospital

Wing Memorial Hospital and Medical Center

Boston Medical Center Corporation

Beverly Hospital Corporation

North Shore Medical Center

St. Elizabeth Medical Center

Berkshire Medical Center, Inc.

Marlborough Hospital

Baystate Mary Lane Hospital

Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital

Clinton Hospital Association

Jordan Hospital, Inc.

Lowell General Hospital

Noble Hospital

Mercy Medical Center

Quincy Medical Center

Hallmark Health System

Massachusetts General Hospital

Morton Hospital

Southcoast Hospital Group, Inc

Baystate Medical Center

Holy Family Hospital


Saints Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham

Emerson Hospital

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Milford Regional Medical Center

Heywood Hospital

Nashoba Valley Medical Center

South Shore Hospital

Newton Wellseley Hospital

Winchester Hospital

Milton Hospital

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Good Samaritan Medical Center

Turfts Medical Center

Faulkner Hospital

Norwood Hospital

Falmouth Hospital

UMass Memorial Medical Center

Lahey Clinic Hospital

Merrimack Valley Hospital

Metrowest Medical Center

St. Vincent Hospital

This program aired on May 8, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.