Latest updates on hip replacement surgery

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In its continuing series on the United States’ health care expenditures, the New York Times featured in a recent article the seemingly unrelenting costs that entail hip replacement surgeries in the country. Hip replacement surgery, one of the most commonly performed procedures in the US, turns out to be one of the most expensive treatments.

Hip replacement costs have reportedly shown a constant upsurge, rising by nearly 300 percent between 1998 and 2011. Moreover, implant pricing has not shown signs of descent and has even been reported to increase by more than five percent every year. With the skyrocketing cost of services, numerous patients have been reportedly left with no choice but to fly across continents to obtain such treatment.

This was reportedly the course of action taken by Michael Shoppen, a 67-year-old architectural photographer from Boulder, Colorado who flew to Belgium to have his arthritic hip addressed. He has been suffering from debilitating pain in the hip, preventing him from performing normal day-to-day tasks and making it impossible for him to even work. However, reports say his health insurance company would not cover his hip replacement procedure as his arthritic condition was related to a previous sports injury.

Shoppen’s surgical and recovery costs would have reached more than $70,000 had it been performed in the US, according to the New York Times article. At a hospital located in Torhout, Belgium, Shoppen was able to undergo the procedure and obtain a new joint for only $13,660. The overall price was also reportedly inclusive of operating room charges, assistive devices, medications, doctors’ fees, and round-trip airfare to the US.

Most American patients who travel to other countries for medical support are usually those without health insurance or those whose treatment may not be covered by their insurance company, online sources say. While many of these medical tourists used to fly to Asian countries, such as India or Thailand, to acquire cheaper health care, some have reportedly made Europe their medical destination, where service fees are only a mere fraction of what is charged in the US.

The author is a health writer and researcher from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


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