Surprise Charges for Surgery Article


I clicked on an article in the Times today about surprise charges for surgery.  I should not have been, but I was surprised to find that almost all of the charges mentioned were for back or neck surgeries for herniated discs.  The first person discussed had a surgery for herniated discs in his neck.  He had negotiated fees with his doctor, of about 6,000 dollars (he paid a 3,000 deductible).  However he got hit with a 117,000 dollar charge from an assistant surgeon.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based          neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”

Near the end of the article the writer mentions that the data on neck and back surgeries reveals that the two year outlook on patients that have the surgery is that there is no benefit to going under the knife.  She points out that some patients get quicker immediate relief, which Dr. Sarno attributes to the powerful placebo affect of surgery.  However, it is important to ask whether or not the risk of surgery, as well as the exorbitant costs, make it worthwhile.

The rate of spinal surgery in the United States is about twice that in Europe and Canada, and five times that in Britain, said Dr. Richard A. Deyo of Oregon Health and Science University, who studies international comparisons. Studies are limited but have generally concluded that after two years, patients who have surgery for disk problems do no better than those treated with painkillers and physical therapy — although the pain, which can be debilitating, resolves far more rapidly with surgery.

To add insult to injury, we also saw this article in the Toronto Star yesterday about a pain clinic that severely injured and sickened a number of people through steroid injections for pain.  The clinic hid the problem and more people got sick.  The problems keep piling up when we fail to consider the relationship between mind and body when we deal with pain.  These article are completely blind to this fact.  They simply focus on the damage and the cost, but fail to see the cause.

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