This week the government released a massive survey of hospital charges across the the country, showing how much hospitals charge Medicare for a variety of different procedures. If, like me, you were interested in seeing the information on your area hospitals, you might have tried downloading and opening the file. If you got that far, you would have discovered that the data were arrayed in a huge Excel spreadsheet. I took one look at it and concluded I didn’t have the patience to dig out the information I wanted on local hospitals, much less figure out how to get it into a more readable user-friendly format.
Fortunately the busy worker bees at the New York Times solved the problem with a giant interactive map. It still doesn’t let you do a side-by-side comparison of figures — Hospital A vs. Hospital B — but at least you can easily look up specific hospitals and their prices on a list of procedures. Chances are the specific procedure you’re interested in won’t be included; the list isn’t very long. But you can still get a good idea of which hospitals charge more or less compared to others in your area. And you can be appropriately horrified by the price tags on even the cheapest procedures.