Minor Surgery Costs in the US

A mom might have to rush her kid to the emergency room for stitches due to deep lacerations at the knee from a playground accident. While you’re peeling vegetables in the kitchen, you could accidentally cut your finger and require a trip to the ER for stitches. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, these unexpected accidents do happen.

The problem is that due to rising medical, hospitalization and medication costs, a simple ‘day trip’ to the hospital for stitches could cost you $1,500 or more – depending on where you live and which medical facility you would have your wounds attended to. 

This is precisely the reason why you need to make sure that you have a proper health insurance plan to provide financial coverage for such medical emergencies. If not that, you should at least have an emergency fund stashed away somewhere so you won’t reel at the costs involved for basic hospital procedures, as well as minor surgeries that you might need to have done.

Here, we will take a look at the approximate costs that you should expect when undergoing a minor surgery in the US. We’ll also take a quick look at the most expensive medical procedures so that you would know how pricey health care has really become in the country.

10 of the Most Expensive Medical Procedures

According to Investopedia.com, the top ten most expensive medical procedures with the hospitalization rates for 2010 are as follows:

  1. Intestine Transplant = $1.121 million
  2. Heart Transplant = $787,700
  3. Bone Marrow Transplant = $676,800 to $300,400
  4. Lung Transplant = $657,800 for two lungs and $50,400 for one lung
  5. Liver Transplant = $523,400
  6. Open Heart Surgery $324,000
  7. Pancreas Transplant = $275,500
  8. Kidney Transplant = $259,000
  9. Tracheotomy = $205,000
  10. Destruction of Lesion of Retina = $153,000

Intestine transplant is the most expensive of the bunch, costing more than a million dollars! How did the total get to be so much? This procedure is actually quite complex because intestinal disease frequently exists alongside liver failure – so liver transplant also needs to be done.

When you combine the costs of the two operations, the total could add up to that much. With a heart transplant, there’s a long waiting list of recipients and the surgery is very lengthy, complex, and expensive.

Another thing that makes the costs so high is the procurement of the heart to be transplanted into the patient.

More than the main surgical costs, you would have to pay a portion of the liability insurance that hospitals and doctors have to shoulder in the event of lawsuits.

If you don’t have health insurance, a pricey emergency surgery is your only option.

No matter how healthy you are right now, you will never know when you might need to undergo surgery – minor or major – so it pays to invest in a comprehensive health insurance policy.

What Are the Costs Involved in a Minor Surgery in the US?

Still according to Statista.com, for 2012, the average charge per stay at community hospitals is $35,400. If you need to undergo minor surgery, it pays to be aware of the costs involved so that you won’t be surprised with a hefty bill once you are released from the hospital.

Here are a few things to know about the costs involved when undergoing a minor surgery:

1. Ask the doctor how much you would have to pay for the surgery and after-surgery care.

What are the most common minor surgical procedures done in hospitals? Take a look at the following list:

  • Central venous pressure monitoring
  • Debridement
  • Excision of mass
  • Incision and drainage
  • Intubation of gastro-intestinal tract
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Paracentesis abdominis
  • Pericardiocentesis
  • Tracheotomy
  • Thoracentesis
  • Urethral catheterization

Depending on the necessity of the procedure, it will cost you anywhere from $500 for a simple stitch, to $1,500 or more for other minor surgeries.

It’s actually pretty difficult to approximate in advance how much you would have to pay because it depends on the exact services that you will need.

What you can do is ask the doctor, the facility or the hospital how much the minor surgery would cost.

Also ask about the care that you would need afterwards. The staff should know what the on-going costs are for such procedures, although of course, you would never know how much exactly until you are presented with the final bill.

2. Choose the best place for you to have surgery.

If you want to save money when going through a minor surgery, you can actually choose the best place that will save you big bucks. For instance, a knee arthroscopy procedure can cost anywhere from $4,000 and up.

The surgery can be performed at a hospital and the patient would have to stay overnight. This is called in-patient care, and is usually the most expensive option. If you want to be frugal about it, ask if you can go for the outpatient procedure.

For this, you would not have to stay overnight at the medical facility. The two ways that you can go about doing this are through an outpatient surgery done at the hospital where you won’t stay overnight; or an outpatient surgery done at an ASC or Ambulatory Surgery Center which is free-standing.

Outpatient care is less expensive than inpatient care, so always ask the medical facility if they offer such an option.

3. Visit HealthCareBlueBook.com to check on the fair price of the minor surgical procedure that you need to undergo.

When you visit the website of Healthcare Bluebook, you can gain access to their Fair Price feature. You can type in the name of the procedure, test or service – along with your zip code. After clicking on the Search icon, the results will appear.

If you search for tracheotomy, for example, and put in your zip code, you would know that the fair price is around $5,100. The lowest price that you can get for such a procedure is $2,321 while anything over $12,000 is considered as a high price for the surgery.

You can even learn about which facilities near your area the procedure is offered, so that you would have an idea about where to go.

By doing such an online research, you would have an idea about the typical fees that health providers in your area charge for minor surgeries. If you need to negotiate later on with your health care provider about a fair price, you can use the figures as reference.

4. Ask your health insurance provider how much they will pay once you undergo the minor surgery.

As mentioned earlier, with the continuous rise in medical and hospitalization costs, having a health insurance plan is crucial. This is especially true if you have an existing health condition, a chronic disease, if you have kids, or if you are an elderly individual.

Once you have determined that you need to undergo a minor surgical procedure, call your health insurance provider. Ask them how much they usually pay for the specific procedure that you need.

If you have a Medicare health plan, you can contact your plan provider for more information.

5. Visit Medicare.gov and look at your Medicare Summary Notice.

Another website that you can visit is MyMedicare.gov. Create an account if you don’t already have one. Once logged in, check on your last Medicare Summary Notice.

This will give you an idea about whether you have met your Part A deductibles for hospital admission; or your Part B deductibles for a doctor’s visit and other outpatient care. After paying the deductible amounts, Medicare can be your co-payment provider for the health care that you will get.

Statistics show that hospital charges make up about one-third of the annual health care bill in the US which amounts to $2.7 trillion. This is the largest driver of medical inflation.

According to the International Federation of Health Plans, spending just one single day as an inpatient at a hospital costs more than $4,000. As compared to other developed countries, this is five times more than what should be the average rate.

As an individual who can possibly require a minor surgery at a hospital, how can you save money without sacrificing the quality of health care that you will get? It can never be stressed enough that you should have a comprehensive health insurance plan.

No matter how much you take care of your health, accidents can happen anytime – so it pays to be prepared. For other illnesses, prevention is key.

But if it cannot be helped for you to undergo a minor surgical procedure, arm yourself with as much information as you can about the on-going rates. The price of private health care is high enough in the US, and you won’t want to be charged any more than you have to by the health care providers.

Through thorough research, you can get information about the fair price that you should be charged with, so you that you can get the health care that you deserve without spending too much.

Oana Schneider: Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

View Comments

  • The costs for healthcare in the U.S. are absurd. You provide some useful tips, but despite that, costs still range from the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. At this point, one can only lower costs as much as possible. Hopefully, voters will take the initiative and adress this awful situation.

  • This is often the reason why those with chronic health conditions are unable to get ahead in our society. The ongoing costs of either treatment, or treatment out of pocket and insurance charges, along with time missed from work, assuming the person can work, can eat into living expenses.

    Another thing to take into consideration is that there are quite a few independent 'Emergency Room' type clinics popping up. If people are in an emergency situation, and unaware of the local options, they might go to one of these places, assuming it's a typical emergency room associated with a hospital. However, these places are often freestanding clinics, and charge extra money for specific services, such as shorter lines and a higher level of care. Some or all of the services provided may not be covered by a person's insurance, so it's best to think about emergencies and the associated costs in advance, and know where you would like to be taken in the case of an emergency.

  • Health insurance is so vital, yet it is something that a scary proportion of people either don't think about, or don't purchase to the correct level. You just have to make sure that you're set up so that you're covered no matter what happens, because the last thing you need when you are in that type of situation is to have to worry about money - it's just a complete nightmare really. So make sure that you set up your plan now, as this gives you the best possible chance of being prepared if anything should happen to you further down the line.