The Increasing Financial Burden of Outpatient Elective Surgery for the Privately Insured

Jessica I. Billig, Wen Ching Lan, Kevin C. Chung, Chang Fu Kuo*, Erika D. Sears*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective:To examine temporal trends of OOP expenses, total payments, facility fees, and professional fees for outpatient surgery.Summary Background Data:Approximately 48 million outpatient surgeries are performed annually with a limited financial understanding of these procedures. High OOP expenses may influence treatment decisions, delay care, and cause financial burden for patients.Methods:We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients with employer-sponsored insurance undergoing common outpatient surgical procedures (cholecystectomy, cataract surgery, meniscectomy, muscle/tendon procedures, and joint procedures) from 2011 to 2017. Total payments for surgical encounters paid by the insurer/employer and patient OOP expenses were calculated. We used multivariable linear regression to predict total payments and OOP expenses, with costs adjusted to the 2017 US dollar.Results:We evaluated 5,261,295 outpatient surgeries (2011-2017). Total payments increased by 29%, with a 53% increase in facility fees and no change in professional fees. OOP expenses grew by 50%. After controlling for procedure type, procedures performed in ambulatory surgery centers conferred an additional $2019 in predicted total payments (95%CI:$2002-$2036) and $324 in OOP expenses (95%CI:$319-$328) compared to predicted cost for office-based procedures. Hospital-based procedures cost an additional $2649 in predicted total payments (95%CI:$2632-$2667) and $302 in predicted OOP expenses (95%CI:$297-$306) compared to office procedures.Conclusion:Increases in outpatient surgery total payments were driven primarily by facility fees and OOP expenses. OOP expenses are rising faster than total payments, highlighting the transition of costs to patients. Healthcare cost reduction policies should consider the largest areas of spending growth such as facility fees and OOP expenses to minimize the financial burden placed on patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-536
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 01 09 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. All rights reserved.


  • cost
  • out-of-pocket expenses
  • outpatient surgery


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