A Couple of Graphical Lessons From the Government’s Huge Hospital Chargemaster Data Dump

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Today the government released data showing how much different hospitals charge for the same procedure. I’ve been struggling since last night to figure out what to say about this, since in one way there’s no news here. The fact that there are huge disparities has been well known for quite a while. This new data simply lays it out in more mind-numbing detail than usual. For now, then, I’m just going to offer up a couple of good graphical presentations that I’ve seen. The first is your basic map, courtesy of the New York Times. I zoomed in on Los Angeles here:

Take a look in the hospitals in the middle. There’s a disparity of 2-4x in pricing between hospitals that are only a couple of miles apart. Why? Some is probably due to the nature of the cases they take, and the amount of unpaid work they do. But 2-4x? What accounts for this? Part of the answer comes from the chart below, courtesy of the Washington Post:

This doesn’t explain everything, but it explains a fair amount. The private sector, we’re told, is always more efficient than the public sector. Competition, you understand. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the healthcare industry. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions.

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without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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