The cost of a mammogram: A Boston-New York rivalry

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

Looks like the Boston-New York rivalry is back, in a different form: this time, it’s over the price of a mammogram.

Mammogram prices ranging from $500 to around $900 were quoted to Martha Bebinger, a reporter at WBUR, the NPR station in Boston. She wrote an article about costs of a mammogram  for the the new HealthCareSavvy community over at WBUR.

Here at clearhealthcosts.com, we have collected prices on mammograms ranging from $75 to $869 for a cash or self-pay customer here in the New York City area. Here’s our list of the price of a mammogram. 

“I have generous health coverage,” Bebinger wrote of her Boston experience for HealthCareSavvy. “I’ll pay the same $20 co-pay for a mammogram that costs $500 or one that costs $900. Still, I’m interested in how much I spend on health care. So I made some calls, nine calls, to be exact, to get three prices….

“I got prices that ranged from $500 to around $900 for a digital screening mammography (the routine check-up) . If you have a lump and need a diagnostic mammogram, that test is about $100 more at each facility I called. I asked for the price of the older model film mammography because it is cheaper and just as accurate for women over 50. None of the three places I called offer this option.”

There is of course, a wrinkle in the mammogram price comparisons (it’s health-care pricing, so there’s always a wrinkle). Bebinger says she got the prices that Blue Cross would pay for the procedure. For our New York City price lists, we called a range of providers and asked for their cash or self-pay prices. Some of them included reading fees, some were digital and some were film (see the notes field at the side). The $75 charge came from Mosholu Park Radiology in the Bronx; the $869 mammogram came from Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J., followed closely by $866 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan.

You can check out our other New York area price lists — just go to the left-hand rail on our front page and click on “Testing Price Reports” or “Procedure Price Reports.” (Other audience participation offers below.)

The new HealthCareSavvy community, which is Bebinger’s invention, is well worth a visit. The site explains its mission: “We are a community of patients who are starting to shop for health care

 

based on quality and cost. Have you thought about whether you are getting the best care for the best price? Share your experiences. Read about ours. Post a tip or a resource. Ask questions! Browse at your leisure.”

While we’re on the topic, Bebinger did a separate article about lists of prices for medical procedures, this for WBUR and not the HealthCareSavvy community.

“A one-page list of 56 common medical tests and procedures could shake up the way doctors deliver care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Why? Because there’s a price next to each item,”  Bebinger reports at WBUR.

The price list was devised by Richard Parker, medical director for the hospital’s physician’s group.

“I want doctors to think about the costs of the things they are doing,” he told Bebinger. “It’s important to think about what something costs to understand its value. …

“We’re not saying don’t give patients what they need. We’ll fight hard to get them what they need, but please don’t give them what they don’t need — we just can’t afford that anymore.”

In this case, Bebinger told clearhealthcosts, it’s not the cash price that’s being quoted, or the Medicare price, or the Medicaid price, or the sticker price (what hospitals and providers charge, which often bears no resemblance to the price they are actually paid). “The BIDMC price list is based on the negotiated rate with Blue Cross but the prices are in line (I was told) with what the two other major insurers in Massachusetts pay,” she wrote to us in an e-mail.

But, she goes on to say, you might not be able to see the price list: “You can’t — unless a doctor there shows it to you. Physicians, hospitals and most insurance companies don’t make prices they agree to in a contract public.”

Here’s the audience participation part: tell us the sticker price on your last mammogram, and what your payment was, and the insurance reimbursement rate if you have it. Details welcome. E-mail: info [at] clearhealthcosts [dot] com.

And head on over and join up at HealthCareSavvy. We’re going to.

 

Boston insurance mammogram patients prices