Can we save more on this surgery?
September 26, 2011 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Routine non-emergency hernia surgery--unmet insurance deductible and wondering if there are any cost-cutting ideas we will wish we had known when we get the bill for the surgery. Assuming the hospital won't just shout out ideas if we call them, so...any ideas?

We've seen people with HSAs mentioning "I got a discount on this and paid less for that just by asking, God bless my new HSA cost-cutting detective work skills" and we're wondering how to find out if there's any of that we don't need going on with an upcoming hernia surgery.

This is in the USA. Thanks!
posted by circular to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
My husband had hernia surgery last year, and I have to say I'm hard pressed to think of anything that we could have cut back on.

One thing -- when we checked into the hospital that morning, they asked us for a $300 or $500 deposit on a credit card (can't remember which). That wasn't a problem for us, but maybe if you asked they would waive that?

The only other thing I can suggest is that post-surgery hospitals tend to be pretty good in dealing with payment plans. So if you owe $X, you could ask to be put on a payment plan. When my sister had big surgery without insurance her hospital okayed a $50/month payment plan even though it meant it took years to pay the bill. As long as she kept paying, they didn't hassle her at all.

Have you tried just asking the surgeon beforehand?
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:30 PM on September 26, 2011

General or local anesthetic? Inguinal or umbilical? Laprascopic or direct? I had right inguinal and umbilical done under general as a laprascopic procedure, and then the left inguinal a couple of years later under local anesthesia and directly visible, but the number of years between procedures wiped out any clear comparison. (i.e. the more complicated laprascopic procedure was on the order of $6k, and the simpler one was pushing $15k a decade later..)

I'd imagine that if it's an option, local + direct would be significantly cheaper. And I remember about the same amount from both surgeries. "Wow, that's a lot of people. Boy it's cold. *discontinuity* And I'm back in the recovery room. Neat!" The only difference that I can tell is the size of the scars, and my direct scar is kind of hidden by position anyway, while my laprascopy scars are right up on my belly.

Might be worth asking if it's an option.
posted by Kyol at 4:32 PM on September 26, 2011

Many hospitals have patient assistance programs that will lower your co-pay. You need to call the hospital and ask them. I had my co-pay reduced by half just because I went into detail about why I needed help. My income didn't qualify for a total write-off.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:49 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

What kind of insurance do you have? If your insurance has a network, you may get a better rate if you go somewhere that is in-network for your health plan, even if you don't meet the deductible.

Try writing your insurer to ask for tips on how to get this done more cheaply. Try shopping around and trying to get a quote from several different providers.
posted by grouse at 6:00 PM on September 26, 2011

You can actually shop for a surgeon—because you should find one that does good work! Even with something "routine" like a hernia surgery! You should be discussing with them their experience and techniques, and yes, please read this thread! In our shopping for a surgeon, in addition to technique and philosophy, we also talked price, and often surgeons will come to a deal with you if you are paying cash or have some deductible, etc. (And yes, you can get a good deal paying cash.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:13 PM on September 26, 2011

One way to save money is to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. After surgery, the staff will require four things before discharge:
1. ingestion - food and water
2. excretion
3. ambulatory
4. pain managed

So as soon as possible, start walking around, even if it is only a few steps. Walk as much as possible as often as possible. Wean off the pain meds yourself, ahead of the approved schedule. Document your own ingestion and excretions, don't flush the toilet - let the nurses see it first.

Your insurer will pre-approve probably 3 or 4 days hospital stay. You can probably cut that down to 2. You might be able to use this to your advantage in persuading the insurance to be a bit more generous, but probably not.

If you have an 80/20 plan, each day you're not in the hospital will save you as much as $250 out of pocket.
posted by yesster at 8:57 AM on September 27, 2011

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