The Financial Burden of Nonoperatively Treated Pediatric Distal Radius Fractures: Medical Debt in Privately Versus Publicly Insured Patients

Amy L. Xu, Niyathi Prasad, R. Jay Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patients with public health insurance have greater difficulty obtaining orthopaedic care than their privately insured counterparts because of lower reimbursements. However, the relationship between insurance status and financial burden for patients and treating institutions is unknown. We compared patient medical debt and uncompensated hospital costs by insurance type for pediatric patients who received nonoperative treatment for distal radius fractures (DRFs). Methods: We reviewed medical records of 100 pediatric patients (above 18 y) treated nonoperatively at our US academic hospital for DRFs from 2016 to 2020. Patients were grouped according to insurance type at the time of treatment: preferred-provider organization (PPO), n=30; health maintenance organization (HMO), n=29; Medicaid, n=28; and uninsured, n=13. These groups were matched by number of encounters, total original charge, and total number of charges. The primary outcomes were patient medical debt and uncompensated costs to the hospital, comprising unpaid balance, uncollectible debt, and self-adjustments offered by the hospital. χ2 tests and analysis of variance were used to compare financial outcomes among subgroups (alpha=0.05). Results: Patient medical debt (ie, uncollectible debt) was generated by 20% of PPO, 7.7% of uninsured, and 6.9% of HMO patients (P=0.06). Medicaid patients generated no patient medical debt, whereas PPO patients generated a mean (±SD) of $15±$39 and HMO patients generated $26±$130, which was not significantly different than that of uninsured patients ($25±$89) (P<0.0001). Uncompensated costs were generated by 54% of uninsured, 20% of PPO, 6.9% of HMO, and 0% of Medicaid patients (P<0.0001). Uncompensated costs were the same as uncollectible debt for privately insured and Medicaid patients, whereas uninsured patients generated an additional $550±$600 from self-adjustments (P<0.0001). Conclusion: Unlike the Medicaid group, the privately insured and uninsured groups incurred patient medical debt and uncompensated costs after nonoperative DRF treatment. Thus, orthopaedic providers should be cost conscious with privately insured patients, while publicly insured patients may provide more consistent—albeit lower—reimbursement for the hospital. Level of Evidence: Level III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-69
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • distal radius fractures
  • health insurance
  • medical debt
  • nonoperative treatment
  • uncompensated costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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