This project came up in the past couple of days, when I came across headlines about wide variations in prices charged by hospitals for the same procedures across the country, and in some instances, within the same city. (For national coverage, see here, here, and here. For local coverage on this issue, see here, here, and here.) This interest nation-wide came about because the Obama administration released this data recently (as of this post, the source page on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was last updated on 7 May, 2013). My understanding is that this is the first time something like this has been done. The source page provides public access to the data as well as this description of the data.
2. A better look at the distribution of cost or procedures at different providers can be taken from the graph below, which is also known as a kernel density graph. (Hint: Valley Hospital handles mostly low cost procedures and does not appear to have a presence in the super expensive section.)
3. What is the pattern of charges imposed by different providers for different procedures? Here, we look at the basic pattern, without focusing on the individual procedures. The procedures along the vertical axis have been arranged by increasing average costs. Hint: Which colored dots appear predominantly on the left and which colored dots appear predominantly on the right? The former generally charge lesser than the latter.
Lot of clutter above… so the following three graphs explore three different sections – 1. Average costs of up to 25,000 (2) average costs between 25k and 50k, and (3) average costs above 50k. Please note that in each graph, there may be truncation in the dots if multiple providers charged costs in different categories (of the three mentioned above.)
4. Finally, what do different providers charge for different procedures? For this, I’ll take you to a different site (hosted by RStudio to enable such interactive applications) to interact with this data. (Please click on the picture below to visit that site.) The site will ask for the procedure and will provide charts of the costs (charges) at different providers, average total payment for that procedure to that provider, and lastly, total discharges by that provider for that procedure. Enjoy.