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How much should a discectomy/laminectomy cost?
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How much should a discectomy/laminectomy cost?


  About two months ago I had a two-level discectomy/laminectomy because of a central disc protrustion at L3/L4 and a huge herniated disc at L4/L5.  I had been in moderate to severe pain every day for seven months after first experiencing symptoms a little over a year ago.  I went through the more conservative treatments--rest, medication, physical therapy, two epidural steriod injections (the second of which led to a spinal headache that took almost a month to resolve despite an epidural blood patch a week later)--but was still not anywhere near better.
  An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery performed my discectomy.  The procedure took over five hours and I was left with a numb left arm for several days (the nerve was over-stretched by how I was positioned).  I was up walking the same night and released from the hospital the next day.
  My hospital bill is around $25,000, the surgeon's fee is about $9,500, the anesthesia bill is $2,300, and there are several other charges (lab, radiology, etc) that I do not know about yet.  Are these the usual and customary charges for what type of surgery that I had?  These charges seem very high--the OR charge alone is $15,000!  I have health insurance that pays 80% of charges, but I am terrified that they will disallow a substantial part of my bills.  
  I am a 22 year-old college student and my parents have been paying my medical expenses.  Even if my insurance pays the full 80%, our share of the bill is still astronomical.  What will happen if our share is so big that we cannot pay it all?  Is there any way that the hospital and/or the doctor will allow my family to pay less than the amount we are assigned?
  This may not be the appropriate forum for my question, but I would appreciate any information about the usual cost of a discectomy that you can provide.  It will take months to find out what my insurance decides; I've been a wreck worrying about this situation. Fortunately, my leg and back pain, weakness, and numbness is greatly improved and I am 85 to 90% pain-free.  I do not regret the surgery but I am very concened about my HUGE medical bills.
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Dear Michelle,
There is no question that surgery today is expensive.  Patients can have difficulty paying large hospital bills and feel helpless in the process.  Insurance companies can be slow to pay and difficult to deal with.  Hospitals and surgeons understand that managing such expenses can be stressful.  A simple call to the hospital and the surgeon can be very useful.  Let them know that you are having some financial difficulties and are seeking some ways to ease the load.  Most of the time you will find that the people are understanding and will work with you to find an appropriate solution to settle the bill.  
Fortunately you are doing much better after your surgery.  You are young and will do well in the long run, just take it easy for a while.
Good luck.






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