Hospitals in the La Crosse area charged the nation's fourth-lowest prices to Medicare patients and their government program in 2006.

That's according to a study by Dartmouth College.

It found that Medicare spending in the La Crosse region totaled $5,800 per person, over $350-dollars than the next lowest charge in Appleton.

In fact, all Wisconsin markets were below the national average, including the state's highest.

That's in the Wausau region, where $8,127 were spent in health costs for each Medicare patient.

Dr. Robert Nesse, the CEO of Franciscan Skemp medical center in La Crosse, says hospitals there are penalized in the Medicare's reimbursement formula because they keep their costs down.

Nesse says it's not a financial advantage to give quality, efficient care under the Medicare system, but it's still right thing to do.