St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Minnesota Department of Health has issued a new report that puts the spotlight on the vast disparities in the prices charged by hospitals for common procedures. The study looked at 4 different procedures offered by Minnesota hospitals as part of a project aimed it at increasing price transparency.

One of the examples cited in the report illustrates the huge range of costs incurred by patients undergoing knee replacement surgery depending on where they underwent the procedure. The statewide average cost of the operation was just under $24,000 based on data compiled between July 2014 and June 2015. The range of the prices was as low as $6186 and as high as $46,974. The price range for a cesarean section delivery ranged from just under $4700 to almost $23,000 with the average price pegged at $10,234.

“This is eye-opening information for the purchasers of health care,” said Carolyn Pare, president and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group, a coalition of public and private purchasers dedicated to improving healthcare outcomes and the overall value of healthcare services. “Employers have long suspected that there is a great deal of variation in both the quality and the cost of health care, but to be able to see the actual numbers provides them an opportunity to make better purchasing decisions. Employers can also help employees and their family members identify and access more affordable care.”

The Health Department says the report assessed the actual prices paid for hospital facility fees that were gleaned from the Minnesota All-Payer Claims Database, which covers over 1.1 billion healthcare claims from private insurance and public health programs covering over 4.3 million people in Minnesota. Pricing reports on additional procedures are expected to be released later this year.