Pricey hip, knee surgery no guarantee of better results
The facility that does the most of these kinds of operations in the nation, by far, is the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, which performs about 3,400 of them each year. The Hospital for Special Surgery's official charge for such procedures is $53,114, close to the national average. The hospital's Medicare reimbursement rate is $19,024.
Top 10 least expensive states for high quality knee and hip surgery
Last week, U.S. News and World Report named the Hospital for Special Surgery the top orthopaedic hospital in the nation. And in a 2011 review, the New York State Health Department found it had the lowest rate of surgical site infections in the state for hip replacement/revision surgeries.
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"We agree that there's a clear correlation between volume and quality," said Louis Shapiro, president of the Hospital for Special Surgery. "I see no correlation between price and quality."
But the hospital charge rates may not tell the full story. Sean Hopkins, vice president of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said very few patients in that state who undergo such surgeries are subject to the hospital charges cost.
Rebecca Harmon, a spokeswoman for Temple University Hospital, whose $172,393 hospital charge makes it the seventh most expensive in the nation for such surgeries, said, "The bottom line is, hospital charges are never used in relation to payments for patients who don't have insurance" at that facility. She said those patients are charged on a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines.
—By CNBC's Dan Mangan. Follow him on Twitter @_DanMangan.