The debate surrounding healthcare in the US has always been a lively one. As more transparency and more open data emerge and fuel it, we think it’s also becoming more interesting: A few weeks ago, a new medical insurance market place in Oregon caused two companies to lower their charges to remain competitive. The US government, for its part, released some fascinating data showing large discrepancies in what healthcare providers charge for treatment within its Medicare program of health insurance for the elderly.

As often, this data makes much more sense when visualized on a map. The example below shows the price charged by different providers for one common procedure. Some of the differences are staggering, sometimes even between healthcare providers only a few miles apart.

The map is based on the recently-released data, which lists the average charges to the patient, as well as the payments made by the Medicare program for the most common procedures. We chose one (respiratory diagnosis with less than four days on a ventilator) and mapped it. The differences were very significant even within local environments. The map above shows the Los Angeles region where you can find the charges for this one procedure to be $70,000 or less at one hospital, but $130,000 at its nearest competitor, and even $250,000 or more in some parts of the city.

Using the visualization you can zoom out to explore the entire country, finding providers only a few miles apart whose charges vary by an order of magnitude, where there is little reason for such huge discrepancies in cost.

The Medicare payments made are much more consistent, as whatever the hospital charges the government had the data to work out the correct price, but individual patients had no way to know that hospitals in the same city might be drastically cheaper. With the newly-released governments data, anyone can use Mapsdata to visualize and analyse for themselves this database and others like it.

The data can be found on the US government data portal. What could you do with it? Perhaps see how it changes at a larger scale, state by state, or check the differences for other procedures? Whatever you do, click below to try your own visualization with Mapsdata.

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