Report: Fresno County has most affordable surgeries in state

New reports finds surgery costs in Fresno County are the lowest in the state.New reports finds surgery costs in Fresno County are the lowest in the state.A new report has found that if you need a knee replacement or Cesarean section, you might be better off having it done in Fresno County than anywhere else in California.

That’s because the costs of having these and other surgeries performed here are the lowest in the state, according to the report “Your price may vary: Geographic variation in hospital charges in California.”

The report was prepared by the California Public Interest Research Group’s Education Fund, a Sacramento-based nonprofit public interest research group.

The report found that surgery charges are nearly three times higher in the most expensive regions of the state, most notably Alameda and San Mateo counties. The report states that a woman in San Mateo could take a limousine from there to Fresno for a Cesarean section and still save money.

Having the surgery in San Mateo would cost nearly $48,000, compared to  $13,000 in Fresno.

In Alameda County, the charge for a knee replacement is $76,300, compared to $46,800 in Fresno.

According to the report, the significant price variations appear unrelated to quality of care, which could provide insights into how to lower the rising costs of health care in the state.

Possible explanations for price disparities include the effect of consolidation on a hospital network’s market influence, regional cost of living variation and differences between community and for-profit hospital pricing structures.

Other notables figures from the report:

• Health care spending per Californian was $6,238 in 2009 — up 79 percent from 10 years earlier. In the same period, family insurance premiums rose 113 percent.

• Employers who provide health insurance to employees now spend 12 percent of employee compensation costs providing that coverage. The state of California spent 19 percent of its general fund on health care in 2009.

On how to even out price variations, the report suggests making hospital prices data more readily available to patients, letting patients know how much payment would be considered “payment in full” and letting people know how much money hospitals are actually paid.