From the heart to the knees, we take a look at the average cost of care for each part of the human body.
For many, visiting a doctor can be a bit intimidating. But even more than the simple fear of receiving a diagnosis, many people fear the bills associated with seeking healthcare. According to a 2015 study that looked into the reasons why people are hesitant to seek medical care, nearly one-fourth cited cost as a top reason, regardless of whether they did or didn’t have health insurance. To gain a clearer understanding of these concerns with cost, we researched the average cost of care for the human body, part by part.
Healthcare Coverage for Medical Treatments
Getting your bill in the mail after getting medical care is always a bit intimidating. You may feel physically better, but the potentially high price of getting your treatment(s) may leave you feeling mentally shocked. While many insurers pick up the majority of the cost of treatments, depending on your coverage, you may be left with high out-of-pocket costs if you haven’t yet met your deductible.
But, if you’re like most people, you’ll likely need healthcare more than a few times in your life. Which means that you’ll regularly find yourself seeking treatment throughout your lifetime. You’ll also likely need to seek care for different parts of your body. Depending on the body part and the condition, treatments to one body part may be more costly than to another.
So, how much money do you think you’ll spend on keeping your heart healthy? And what about your knees, ankles, and arms? How much are your body parts worth, medically speaking?
The Cost of Care for Each Body Part
Thanks to a new data set published through Medicare, we’ve come up with ballpark answers to these questions—and the results will change the way you look at your body.
The most expensive part of your body? Well, it’s not your heart or your brain. Oddly enough, it might be your knee or ankle. There are a number of reasons for this to be true, but one explanation could be that while it’s costly to undergo something like a heart surgery, it happens relatively less often than, say, a full knee replacement.
You might think that over the course of a lifetime, a person spends more money on healthcare for their most important body parts like the brain, heart, and lungs. After all, we use these three organs 100 percent of the time, and can’t live without them. Keeping them in the best possible shape requires visiting medical specialists like cardiologists and neurologists — and seeing such specialists always comes with a heavy price tag.
Spinal Care More Expensive Than Heart Care
According to the data, it turns out that the costs of taking care of your brain ($34,517), lungs ($27,030), and heart ($40,295) don’t stack up to the costs of taking care of our spine ($82,284), knees ($51,339), or hips ($50,879).
There are many explanation for why this may be true. The most likely explanation is simply the commonality of major procedures that come with huge price tags. While something like heart surgery is no doubt costly, it’s likely less expensive than, say, a full knee replacement, which is performed nearly 1 million times per year in the U.S. To put that in context, a heart transplant is performed just 2,300 times per year in this country.
It’s important to note that these costs are based on Medicare data for procedures that correlate with those specific body parts. The cost over your lifetime could be significantly higher if, say, you end up getting three to four heart procedures done but only one knee surgery.
To come up with these costs, we examined more than 150,000 different hospitalizations and categorized the resulting medical billing codes (the top 100 codes were included in the data) based on the body part associated with that code. Codes which don’t correspond to a particular body part were excluded from our analysis, as were codes for trivial procedures or minor illnesses like pneumonia.
By looking at the average total covered charges, we were able to assign a cost for each of the major body parts.
Our goal was to try to quantify which body parts cost the most to care for, on average.
The Takeaway from This Cost of Care Analysis
So, what’s the bottom line when it comes to the cost of care for each body part?
We can’t promise you that these prices are exactly what you’ll end up paying, but the data are clear: taking care of our knees, ankles, spine, and hips is very expensive.
It’s likely that healthcare for these bones is so costly because they’re stressed by our movement and weaken quickly as we age. As people live longer, they have more time to need treatment for the bones that they use the most.
Given the high cost of care which you’ll devote to these bones, it makes sense to take some preventative steps. Leading a healthy and active lifestyle is always a good first step.
Picking the right insurance plan is also critical. Now that you know where the majority of your insurance coverage dollars are going to go, make sure that you find an insurance plan which robustly covers the areas you’re most likely to need.
As the saying goes, healthcare can cost an arm and a leg, or — maybe more accurately — cost a spine and a knee.
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