The Checkup: How an Appendectomy Could Cost $182,955

A new study found that hospitals charge whatever they want for procedures and treatments.

• If you’ve ever had to deal with medical bills—and all the phone calls and insurance-company haggling that go along with them–you know how much of a pain they are. The New York Times posted a story this week about how hospitals are charging, willy-nilly, whatever they feel like for medical treatments and procedures. The piece centers on a study out earlier this week, which found that “hospital charges are all over the map,” reporter Roni Caryn Rabin writes. The study, which looked at California practices, found that appendectomies run anywhere from $1,500 to, in one case, as much as $182,955 (that patient had cancer, but the cancer had no bearing on the appendectomy), and that even within a single hospital, the same procedures carry varying price tags. Cue a string of money quotes:

“We expected to see variations of two or three times the amount, but this is ridiculous,” said Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “There’s no rhyme or reason for how patients are charged or how hospitals come up with charges.

“There’s no other industry where you get charged 100 times the same amount, or 121 times, for the same product,” she said.

While the piece only talks about pricing in California hospitals, I think it’s safe to assume that the same kinds of practices are going on everywhere. (In fact, a few years back, Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath wrote about his daughter’s appendectomy at CHOP—and all the medical bills, haggling and headaches that followed.) Frankly, the whole situation is depressing—especially when the patient bears the brunt of it. Read more over at the Times.

• Speaking of California, Agriculture Department officials confirmed a case of mad cow disease yesterday in a California dairy cow, the fourth case in the U.S. since 2003. The USDA’s chief veterinary officer says, “There is really no cause for alarm”—but I’ll be laying off burgers for the time being just in case.

• Kids do the darndest things, don’t they? Like drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk off the alcohol. (True story.)