The High Cost of Failing Artificial Hips

The most widespread medical implant failure in decades — involving thousands of all-metal artificial hips that need to be replaced prematurely — has entered the money phase.

Medical and legal experts estimate the hip failures may cost taxpayers, insurers, employers and others billions of dollars in coming years, contributing to the soaring cost of health care. The financial fallout is expected to be unusually large and complex because the episode involves a class of products, not a single device or just one company.

The case of Thomas Dougherty represents one particularly costly example. He spent five months this year without a left hip, largely stuck on a recliner watching his medical bills soar.

In August, Mr. Dougherty underwent an operation to replace a failed artificial hip, but his pelvis fractured soon afterward. The replacement hip was abandoned and then a serious infection set in. Some of the bills: $400,776 in charges related to hospitalizations, and $28,081 in doctors’ bills.

“I’m sitting here on a La-Z-Boy meant for someone who is 80 and I’m 55,” said Mr. Dougherty, who lives in Groveland, Ill., and works at Caterpillar, the heavy equipment manufacturer. His bills are “five times as much” as he paid for his home.

Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/28/business/the-high-cost-of-failing-artificial-hips.html?_r=1&hpw

Source: The New York Times