How much does the price of health care services vary across the nation? The average cost of a lipid panel in Birmingham, Ala., is $17. It is $25 in Detroit, $33 in Seattle and $94 in Austin.

New data from Castlight Health, which sells a suite of software to help large employers analyze and manage health care costs, demonstrates price differentials in 30 cities for lipid panels, CT scans of the head or brain, an MRI of the lower back and an adult preventive primary care visit.

The vendor’s data shows that a preventive primary care visit averages $95 in Miami, $102 in El Paso, $134 in Denver and a whopping $251 in San Francisco. But the range of costs in each city varies just as much as across the cities. A lipid panel in Dallas goes for $15 to $343, a head/brain CT scan in Philadelphia can cost anywhere from $264 to $3,271, a lower back MRI in New York City might be $416 or might be $4,527, and a preventive primary care visit in Phoenix ranges from $40 to $195.

The message from Castlight is that there are two myths about pricing: That selecting an in-network physician assures paying less, and that healthcare pricing may vary across the nation but not in a consumer’s own backyard. The vendor suggests establishing a relationship with one primary care physician, use national laboratory groups for blood tests and avoid going to the hospital for imaging tests.

An interactive infographic that gives the average cost of these four common outpatient services across cities and the range of costs within the cities is available here.

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