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COLUMBIA - How much does it cost to get your appendix removed in a local hospital? Hundreds of dollars? Thousands of dollars? The answer could be both. A study done by the University of California, San Francisco, found huge cost disparities in patients' bills. 

The study looked at nearly 20,000 cases of appendicitis treated at 289 different hospitals. Patients were charged a low of $1,529 and a high of nearly $183,000 for the same procedure. The median hospital bill was $33,811.

One question the study could not find the answer to was where some of the charges came from.

Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the study shows how broken the system is.  

Dillon said, however, one reason there are variations among costs is because no one procedure is identical once in the operation room.

"Not everything in the human body or in medicine is easy to do in apples to apples comparison," Dillon said.

Military veteran Theropolious Ivory said he has been receiving the same service at Harry S Truman Memorial Veteran's Hospital for years. This year, Ivory discovered a change in his bill, and he doesn't know why.

"It's fifteen hundred dollars now. When all these years, 29 years or more, I never had a charge," Ivory said.

To get the fairest comparisons, the researchers included only cases with hospital stays of less than four days. Patients age ranged from 18 to 59.