The per capita surgery rate in the United States is some 50 percent higher than in the European Union countries, and that higher demand is apparently driving up prices dramatically.
The prices for procedures such as gallbladder surgery–which is now an outpatient procedure that does not require a multi-day hospital stay–rose more than 20 percent over the past five years. Ditto for hip surgeries.
Altogether, there are as many as 100 million surgical procedures in the U.S. every year as a “cottage industry.” The network commissioned a study by the pricing company The Healthcare Bluebook to determine how costs for surgeries have been trending, using the company’s methodology to determine a “fair price” for each procedure.
As a result, the price for a hysterectomy rose by 19 percent, with a fair cost of $11,780. Hip replacements increased by 24 percent, to $22,606. Gall bladders are up 21 percent, to $5,532. Hernia repairs jumped 16 percent, to $5,056.
Hospitals played a role in prompting the relatively high level of surgeries since it is their primary source of revenue. “That encourages medical center administrators to ensure operating suites remain humming–an assembly-line mentality that can lead to unnecessary procedures and spiraling prices,” it reported.
Studies also suggest that hospitals do not encourage minimally invasive surgeries, which sometimes can be performed on an outpatient basis and lead to better patient outcomes. Outpatient surgery centers are often less costly and more efficient. And hospitals have also been known to oversell robotic surgeries, which also cost more than more conventional procedures and tend not to have better outcomes.
And consolidation among hospital players have also played a role. “That drive toward hospitals forming bigger conglomerations of networks and physician practices has reduced competition, and in a non-Medicare population, has enabled hospital systems in many parts of the country to charge far more,” John Birkmeyer, M.D., a researcher and adjunct professor at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine.