How Have Patient Out-of-pocket Costs for Common Outpatient Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgical Procedures Changed over Time? A Retrospective Study from 2010 to 2020

Sarah I. Goldfarb, Amy L. Xu, Arjun Gupta, Frederick Mun, Wesley M. Durand, Tyler A. Gonzalez, Amiethab A. Aiyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BackgroundOut-of-pocket (OOP) costs can be substantial financial burdens for patients and may even cause patients to delay or forgo necessary medical procedures. Although overall healthcare costs are rising in the United States, recent trends in patient OOP costs for foot and ankle orthopaedic surgical procedures have not been reported. Fully understanding patient OOP costs for common orthopaedic surgical procedures, such as those performed on the foot and ankle, might help patients and professionals make informed decisions regarding treatment options and demonstrate to policymakers the growing unaffordability of these procedures.Questions/purposes(1) How do OOP costs for common outpatient foot and ankle surgical procedures for commercially insured patients compare between elective and trauma surgical procedures? (2) How do these OOP costs compare between patients enrolled in various insurance plan types? (3) How do these OOP costs compare between surgical procedures performed in hospital-based outpatient departments and ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs)? (4) How have these OOP costs changed over time?MethodsThis was a retrospective, comparative study drawn from a large, longitudinally maintained database. Data on adult patients who underwent elective or trauma outpatient foot or ankle surgical procedures between 2010 and 2020 were extracted using the MarketScan Database, which contains well-delineated cost variables for all patient claims, which are particularly advantageous for assessing OOP costs. Of the 1,031,279 patient encounters initially identified, 41% (427,879) met the inclusion criteria. Demographic, procedural, and financial data were recorded. The median patient age was 50 years (IQR 39 to 57); 65% were women, and more than half of patients were enrolled in preferred provider organization insurance plans. Approximately 75% of surgical procedures were classified as elective (rather than trauma), and 69% of procedures were performed in hospital-based outpatient departments (rather than ASCs). The primary outcome was OOP costs incurred by the patient, which were defined as the sum of the deductible, coinsurance, and copayment paid for each episode of care. Monetary data were adjusted to 2020 USD. A general linear regression, the Kruskal-Wallis test, and the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test were used for analysis, as appropriate. Alpha was set at 0.05.ResultsFor foot and ankle indications, trauma surgical procedures generated higher median OOP costs than elective procedures (USD 942 [IQR USD 150 to 2052] versus USD 568 [IQR USD 51 to 1426], difference of medians USD 374; p < 0.001). Of the insurance plans studied, high-deductible health plans had the highest median OOP costs. OOP costs were lower for procedures performed in ASCs than in hospital-based outpatient departments (USD 645 [IQR USD 114 to 1447] versus USD 681 [IQR USD 64 to 1683], difference of medians USD 36; p < 0.001). This trend was driven by higher coinsurance for hospital-based outpatient departments than for ASCs (USD 391 [IQR USD 0 to 1136] versus USD 337 [IQR USD 0 to 797], difference of medians USD 54; p < 0.001). The median OOP costs for common outpatient foot and ankle surgical procedures increased by 102%, from USD 450 in 2010 to USD 907 in 2020.ConclusionRapidly increasing OOP costs of common foot and ankle orthopaedic surgical procedures warrant a thorough investigation of potential cost-saving strategies and initiatives to enhance healthcare affordability for patients. In particular, measures should be taken to reduce underuse of necessary care for patients enrolled in high-deductible health plans, such as shorter-term deductible timespans and placing additional regulations on the implementation of these plans. Moreover, policymakers and physicians could consider finding ways to increase the proportion of procedures performed at ASCs for procedure types that have been shown to be equally safe and effective as in hospital-based outpatient departments. Future studies should extend this analysis to publicly insured patients and further investigate the health and financial effects of high-deductible health plans and ASCs, respectively.Level of EvidenceLevel III, economic and decision analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-322
Number of pages10
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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