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Two area hospitals cited for low hip, knee replacement surgery costs

Two area hospitals are among the 10 cheapest facilities in the country for hip and knee replacement surgeries, according to an analysis by NerdWallet Health.

The personal finance website, now making a push into the topic of health transparency, sifted through Medicare data and demographic information to assess the price and expected quality of the procedures performed at 2,750 hospitals.

Medina Memorial Hospital, in Orleans County, was listed as the No. 2 cheapest hospital for hip or knee replacement surgeries, with an average price of $14,788, and Eastern Niagara Hospital, in Lockport, was No. 10 with an average cost of $16,992, NerdWallet Health found.

Nationally, the average price billed by a hospital for hip or knee replacement surgery was $52,063 in 2011, according to the site. However, Medicare negotiates a much lower reimbursement for the procedures, or an average of $14,567 that year for either one, and health insurers also negotiate their own reimbursement rates.

Five of the 10 most expensive hospitals for the two procedures are in California, with Monterey Park Hospital, in Monterey Park, leading the way with an average bill of $223,373.

In this area, the most expensive hospital for hip and knee replacement was the Kaleida Health system as a whole, at an average bill of $37,230, according to NetWallet Health, a price still well below the national average.

"We observed no meaningful correlation between the price a hospital charges for hip and knee surgery and the relative income or age of people living in the nearby community," the study's authors write. "Likewise, we did not find that hospital size or operating characteristics had any consistent influence on hospital charges."

However, NetWallet Health did find that outcomes generally were better at hospitals that performed at least 200 hip and knee replacements each year, with lower rates of infections, heart attacks, blood clots, pneumonia or death.

In Western New York, only Kaleida Health, with 479 such procedures, and Catholic Health's Kenmore Mercy Hospital, with 204, fit this bill, according to the study. Those figures are for the number of Medicare-reimbursed procedures only.

In a separate report, Kenmore Mercy was cited as the third-cheapest hospital in the country that performs 200 or more hip or knee replacements per year.

The survey also asked patients if they agreed with the statement, "I would definitely recommend this hospital." In this area, Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo scored highest, with 72 percent agreeing, while United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia scored lowest, with 64 percent agreement.

The NetWallet Health report follows an extensive release of data in May by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the Medicare program. The Buffalo News and other media outlets conducted their own analysis of this data.

---Stephen T. Watson

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