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Need a MRI or Colonoscopy in Barrow? It's Worth Driving to Athens

The cost of colonoscopies, MRIs, CT scans and mammograms can shift a lot from place to place.

It costs $1,090 less to get a colonoscopy in Clarke County than in Barrow County. That's according to data from New Choice Health, a private company that encourages people to become smarter healthcare consumers.

The average cost of a colonoscopy is $4,800, while it's $3,710 in Clarke. CT scans cost $160 less in Barrow County. The $2,330 cost is $20 less than the state average, also. But it's more expensive to get a mammogram or MRI in Barrow County. 

These big regional differences have been in the news lately: As the Washington Post wrote on Wednesday, "One hospital charges $8,000 - another $38,000." Using the same data as the Post, The New York Times listed out the prices of a series of procedures in hospitals across the country.

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The Times and the Post used data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Patch worked with New Choice Health to examine the cost of four well-known procedures in Patch communities all across the country and found wide disparities – CT scans, colonoscopies, MRIs and mammograms. The examination revealed the costs can vary by thousands of dollars even within the same community.

Take Orange County. A CT scan in the sprawling suburban area can go for as little as $1,790 or for as much as $6,130 – a difference of more than $4,000. The cost of a colonoscopy in Suffolk County Massachusetts, can be as little as $2,570 or as much as $6,000.

The prices from the New Choice Health marketplace reflect the “list price” for these procedures – kind of like the sticker price on a car. Health insurance companies often end up getting different discounts and reimbursements depending on the arrangements they have worked out with providers. But the point, says New Choice’s Brad Myers, is to give consumers the information they need to negotiate for themselves and make informed decisions when it comes to paying for their healthcare.

Looking at the data, some trends seem to emerge. Often the communities with the well-known medical research centers seem to be some of the most expensive places to have procedures done – or they at least go higher on the high-end of costs.

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