Mapping the 50 US hospitals with the highest price markups

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A recent study by Bai & Anderson has found that some hospitals charge 10x (ie, 1000%) higher than the standard rates set by Medicare. Many news agencies have posted the list of the 50 US hospitals that have the highest markup. But I am more visually oriented, so of course I used SAS and plotted them on a map...

Before we get to the map, how about a little trivia contest! The image below shows my friend Beth's injury. What was the injury? ... and for bonus points, how did the injury happen? (Thanks Beth!)

xray

And now, on to my custom map...

I first tried plotting the 50 hospitals as markers on a US map, but some of them were clustered so tightly that it was difficult to see them all clearly. So I decided to plot them on state maps instead. There were so many states, the user would have had to spend a lot of time scrolling through them all, looking for the state that interested them. So I set up a graphical user interface (GUI) - and by 'graphical' I mean a top-level US map, where they can click on the state of interest to drill down. Here's a snapshot of my GUI US map (you can click it to see the actual interactive map):

hospital_markup_2012

When you click on a state, it drills-down to show you the detailed map of that state, with markers showing the locations of the hospitals. You can click the hospital markers to launch a Google search for more information about pricing at that hospital. Here's a snapshot of the Texas map, for example. (click the US map above, to get access to all the maps)

hospital_markup_2012_tx

So, are these hospitals price-gouging, or are there other factors that just aren't reflected in the data? Feel free to share your theories in the comments section!

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over 25 years, and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book (SAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics).

3 Comments

  1. I don’t know what the injury is but it looks like Beth has a screw loose. Couldn’t resist. 

    Very interesting information about the hospitals in this country. Looks like Florida needs a different color on the map, flashing red maybe. Most of the highlighted states have one to three hospitals but Florida has 20!!!

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Ahh - apparently you know Beth! ;)

      It would be interesting to know 'why' Florida is so different from the rest of the nation. A different demographic (more older/retired people)? Different laws governing hospitals? Perhaps the lure of no state income tax lures for-profit hospital owners who make large incomes?

      • Why is Florida so full of high-markup hospitals? I'm sure it is no way related to the fact that the state's governor is the former CEO of Hospital Corporation of America, the affiliation of 14 of the 20 hospitals.

        Absence of state income tax doesn't explain it, though. If it did, you would see such thieves high-markup hospitals in (for example) New Hampshire and Washington. Along with NY and TX, Florida is where the vast majority of Medicare fraud is perpetrated, so it's quite possible that the "culture" of the state's healthcare professionals and institutions contributes to this situation.

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