Considering Hip or Knee Replacement? It Pays to Shop Around
The opening line in a very recent article on the popular financial website Bankrate.com caught our eye. It read, “Some 50 years ago, fans were rocking to ‘Twist and Shout.’ These days, the same crowd is rolling on over to orthopedic surgeons for hip and knee replacements.”
Ouch! We can certainly relate, and we’ll bet you can, too. According to the Bankrate.com article, which you can read by clicking here, Medicare paid out for more than 400,000 hip and knee replacements in 2014, to the tune of over $7 billion just for the cost of hospitalization. Bankrate says that, depending on where you live, hip and knee replacement will cost an average of about $28,000, and the price keeps climbing.
So if you or someone you know is joining the ranks of those contemplating hip or knee replacement, this article contains some very helpful tips, along with this admonition: it pays to shop around. While it’s true that insurance will cover most of the expense, the extra dollars you’ll shell out for co-pays and other costs make it all the more important that you do your homework and find the best ways to save money on surgery without sacrificing safety and quality of outcome.
The Bankrate.com article lists six tips to help you control costs. We won’t cover them all here, but let’s consider a few important pointers. Bankrate starts by warning medical consumers not to assume you’re necessarily being quoted the best price. According to the article, “some costs are enormously inflated for no apparent reason.” The article gives you some helpful locations where you can go to figure out the actual surgical costs for the healthcare system you prefer to use, so you can decide if your price quote is fair. There’s also a link to Medicare’s hospital cost comparison website in the Bankrate article.
Here’s another thing you need to know before you decide where to have your surgery: location can make a huge difference in the cost. Bankrate cites one particularly dramatic example of this difference. If you have hip replacement surgery in Palm Bay, Florida, the average cost is an eye-popping $50,029. Drive 175 miles south to Miami, however, and the average cost plummets to about $28,500, close to the national average. If you’re paying a 20 percent co-pay, a big chunk of that price difference will hit you right in the checkbook! It may even pay, says Bankrate, to pick a nice, sunny spot to have your surgery – Miami, for example – and turn your new knee or hip into a medical vacation. In any case, you need to do your homework before deciding whether to stay close to home or travel a bit for your surgery.
No matter what price your medical service finally quotes you for your surgery, Bankrate.com reminds you that you do not need to be afraid to negotiate. Pricing of many healthcare services is highly subjective. As the Bankrate.com article puts it, “Even if most of the bill is being paid by an insurance company, negotiating is still important because of co-pays and other non-covered costs.” Another way you might be able to get a lower price on your surgery is if you’re flexible in the timing of your operation. “Flexibility in scheduling can even put the ball in your court,” says Bankrate, because “you may pay less if you’re willing to have the job done when the doctor and hospital have a slow period in the schedule, which results in a slowdown in their cash flow.”
These days few of us need to be reminded that health care is first and foremost a business. New regulations and consumer demand are requiring insurance companies and providers to practice greater cost transparency, and everyone is concerned about their bottom line. This can put you as a medical consumer squarely in the driver’s seat if you ask the right questions.
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(originally reported at www.bankrate.com)