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Why Are Hospital Operations So Expensive?



If you have ever been in the hospital for a surgical procedure and been overwhelmed by the total cost, you’d be surprised to know that the majority of the cost isn’t actually in the operation – a significant part of the price is liability insurance for the surgeons, and about 75% in pre- and post-operative care of the patient. Many medical malpractice lawsuits have been so hefty that premiums have had to rise accordingly. Naturally, this cost is now borne by the patient or his medical insurance cover via the medical practitioners’ professional fees.

Added to this, many doctors now call for often unnecessary tests and examinations just to protect themselves in case of litigation, in a practice called ‘defensive medicine’: the need to prove everything has been done to promote the health of the patient. It adds a heavy pecuniary burden on the patient and his resources, on top of the necessary patient pre- and post-operative preparation.

Here are some of the most expensive medical procedures, with a few actual costs compared with the total expenses incurred.

Open heart surgery/heart transplant. First performed by Dr. Christian Barnard decades ago, it is now rather commonplace as a remedy for serious cardiac disorders. Total expenses can reach $787, 700 (or as high as $997,700) although the actual procedure cost may be just around $324,000 (heart transplant, $287,000). The balance is eaten by the needed half-year recovery regimen and follow-up processes, as well as the extensive (and expensive) organ sourcing processes.

Intestinal replacement. This procedure involves the replacement of part or whole diseased intestine with a healthy one from a donor. The total cost, when combined with liver transplant which often occurs, can reach up to $1,121,800.

Lung transplant. When emphysema or cystic fibrosis is too serious for medication, a transplant is the only way to go, assuming a donor can be found. Lengthy hospital stay, long preparation time, and the delicate procedure can raise the expenses to about $657,800 for the two lungs ($450,500 for only one), even if the actual procedural cost is only about $210,000.

Liver transplant. Like other transplant procedures, a liver transplant’s costs are raised by the long waiting time, complex procedure, compatibility issues, and hospital stay so that it can be as high as $523,400 (or up to $577,000), but the price of the transplant itself may be just $235, 000 average. The total payables actually depend on professional fees, hospital charges, and other factors.

You might have noticed that the most expensive operations are all organ transplants. This is because of the increased danger that comes with the loss of function of these organs during operation. The whole time one of your organs is missing you are at risk of dying. Death on the operating table means a large amount of compensation. So ultimately, you have to pay the insurance companies in case you die. That part is a lose-lose for the patient.

There is, however, a positive side to these costs, the majority of the money you pay doesn’t go to the surgeons or the insurance company, it goes to you. It goes to the equipment for your surgery, your organs, and your on-going rehabilitation. It goes to look after you, ensuring that you recover from your illness and can get back to your life as it was before.