You have been diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis and are ready for the next step: surgery. The associated costs can add up, so it is worthwhile to spend the time and energy preparing for and doing your research so you are not hit with unexpected expenses.
It is important that you strike a balance between affordability and quality when considering your lumbar spinal stenosis surgery. The first thing you need to do is determine what is and is not important to you to make your surgical experience as smooth as possible.
Seeking Out the Perfect Surgeon and Facility
You have found the perfect surgeon. Now comes the next step — assessing the practice staff. Granted, the most important part of a successful surgery is the skill and expertise of the surgeon, but there is a tremendous amount of energy and work that goes on in the background as well.
Be sure that your surgeon’s staff is well-versed in helping patients wade through the paperwork and red tape insurance and health plans will almost certainly throw your way. A good portion of the service you are receiving includes having a group of people who will advocate and work for and with you to make it happen. If you are not sure how to gauge a staff’s ability to get you the care you need and deserve, consider these points:
- Ask, ask, ask. Meet with your surgeon and staff, and do not be shy to put them on the spot. Ensure they are familiar with your insurance and how best to navigate through the different forms and other requirements.
- Find out if your surgery will require more than one surgeon. This can increase the cost of the surgery exponentially but is sometimes necessary to ensure the best outcome.
- Itemized quotes should be readily provided to you without any resistance. Question anything that seems as though it may be unnecessary, and do not hesitate to ask for clarification.
- Do your homework. Medical provider review sites can be an invaluable tool in helping you learn more about your prospective providers and whether they are up to the challenge of properly quoting and billing you.
- Ask whether your surgery will be performed in a hospital or dedicated surgical center, and find out if there is a cost difference. If in-house recovery is required, what will be the associated costs?
Taking Advantage of HSA and FSA
Most health-related costs can be paid using your HSA (health savings account) or your FSA (flexible spending account). Lumbar spinal stenosis surgery costs can be offset a bit if you can utilize either of these accounts. If you are not sure, call your account manager to find out if surgical (and associated) costs are eligible.
Making a Plan
There will be numerous expenses aside from your lumbar spinal stenosis surgery. These include preoperative testing, specialist consultations and imaging. Find out ahead of time just how much your insurance will pay so you are not caught off-guard by ineligible procedures.
Get the Numbers Ahead of Time
Prior to going in for surgery, be sure you have a full run-down on paper of every fee you will be charged, those that will be covered by insurance, and those that will not. Make sure to do this well before you show up for surgery; you want to focus on and consider the options and numbers with a clear head.
If you are undergoing an in-patient procedure (which the majority of lumbar spinal stenosis surgeries are), you may have a few days of hospital stay. All of the little things from sheet changes to bandages can add up quickly. Find out ahead of time what the expected financial obligation will be for this stay, and how much you will be responsible for.
Will you need post-op care once you are home? Find out, and if so, shop around. Some agencies will be covered by your insurance, and some will not. You may also end up having to hire someone to assist with childcare if you are the parent of small children. This is where your FSA can come in handy.
Should you require medical equipment such as specialized shower chairs for the duration of your recovery, look into the cost differences of renting versus buying outright. Less-expensive equipment may be easier to purchase and then donate once you are finished with it. Is it eligible for a tax write-off?
Numbers Not Adding Up?
If you still are not sure you are seeing the whole picture, start doing some research. The internet can be a wellspring of useful information that can help you determine if you have taken all of the potential costs of your lumbar spinal stenosis surgery into account. To help you break it down into more manageable segments, use this quick checklist:
- Pre-operative blood and other lab work
Surgical and Recovery Expenses:
- Surgeon(s) fees
- Surgical assistant fees
- Anesthesia charges
- Neurophysiology charges
- Hospital/facility fees
- Post-operative in-house care
- Missed work (will you be able to use sick days or personal leave?)
- Home care expenses
- Post-op consultations and checkups
- Child care or other domestic care expenses
Obviously, this is not a fully comprehensive run-down of all of the potential costs and expenses you may encounter when you undergo lumbar spinal stenosis surgery, but it is a good start. Surgery may not be an inexpensive proposition, but with some careful planning, you will not break the bank.