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Cost of Neuro-Spinal Treatment

Cost of Neuro-Spinal Treatment

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Neurological conditions are unfortunately quite common, but they can be complex and expensive to remedy. The central nervous system, which is composed of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and related tissues, must be treated with extreme care, since an improperly performed procedure or therapy could actually worsen your condition.

In addition, since the nervous system is so complicated, medical professionals must go through many years of education and training to fully understand and effectively treat it, raising the costs for this type of care. Neurological treatment often requires a multidisciplinary approach, requiring the care, time, expertise, and expense of various specialists and medical professionals, whose time is very valuable. The advanced technology and techniques involved in modern neurological practice can further raise the cost of treatment.

Price should never prevent you from seeking the assistance you need if you suffer from a neurological disease or disorder.

You may be able to manage your symptoms without undergoing complex surgery, but this typically involves regular therapeutic sessions, orthotic devices, and oral or injected medications, which can also be expensive. If surgical intervention is necessary, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to perform.

However, price should never prevent you from seeking the assistance you need if you suffer from a neurological disease or disorder. Your central nervous system function deeply impacts your quality of life and ability to function on a day-to-day basis, so it is worth preserving and improving. Fortunately, health insurance providers often cover a segment or even the entirety of neurological care costs. Even patients without health insurance can use financing to make neurological treatment accessible.

Below, we explain what influences the cost of neuro-spinal treatment and what you can do to afford the treatment you need.

The Experience of the Neurosurgeon

One of the top cost factors in neurological treatment is the experience of the neurosurgeon delivering the care. To become licensed and practice in this field, neurosurgeons must spend 14 years training (eight in school, learning about the nuances of the central nervous system, and six in a residency program, honing their practical skills). This means that even a relatively new neurosurgeon has over a decade of experience in this discipline. In exchange for all of the time, money, energy, and effort they put in to refining their skills and developing an understanding of the nervous system, neurosurgeons typically charge high fees for their services.

Treatment from neurosurgeons with more experience may cost more because:

  • These doctors are in higher demand. Generally, neurosurgeons who have been in business for longer have more established, well-known practices, meaning that a greater number of patients are competing for their time.
  • They are less likely to make errors during procedures. A neurosurgeon who has been practicing for a long time has likely performed the surgery or treatment you require many more times than a doctor who is fresh out of his or her residency. This makes the more experienced doctor better equipped to handle any issues that arise during surgery to protect your safety and deliver excellent results.
  • They have probably attended more continuing education workshops, seminars, and courses throughout their careers than younger, less seasoned doctors. These events allow doctors to further refine their skills and learn new techniques, enhancing the overall quality of their care.
  • They are more likely to be members of esteemed professional organizations, societies, and groups.
  • They may have invested in and learned to use a wider array of neurosurgical tools, expanding your treatment options.

Working with a seasoned neurosurgeon may raise the price of your treatment, but this may be well worth it, since receiving quality care can ultimately lower your risk for costly, uncomfortable, unhealthy, or even life-altering surgical complications.

However, the number of years a neurosurgeon has been in practice should not be the only factor you consider when choosing a doctor. A skilled neurologist who recently completed his or her residency may provide excellent care. In addition, the surgeon's particular area of expertise also plays a role. For example, if you require spinal fusion, a surgeon with only five years of experience who has trained extensively in this procedure would be a better fit for your needs than a brain disorder specialist who rarely works on patients' spines. When you inquire about your prospective neurosurgeons' experience, you should be sure to ask about how frequently they perform the specific surgery you believe you will require.

RELATED: Find a qualified neuro-spinal surgeon in your area

The Location of the Practice

The cost of living, rental prices, and taxes vary from region to region, so the location of your neurological practice will also impact the price of your care. For example, neurological surgery is sure to be more expensive in an affluent area such as Beverly Hills than it would be in rural Montana.

If you'd like to lower your costs or want to work with a specific practitioner who operates in a different region, you may choose to work with a neurological practice that isn't as convenient to your home.

If you'd like to lower your costs or want to work with a specific practitioner who operates in a different region, you may choose to work with a neurological practice that isn't as convenient to your home. This can reduce your surgical expenses, but you will need to factor the cost of travel and accommodations into your budget. In addition, traveling home by plane or car after neurosurgery may be difficult or even unsafe, so you may need to plan for a prolonged stay near to your neurosurgeon's practice. You will most likely need to attend ongoing physical therapy and receive other routine treatments at a neurological practice close to your residence, since making a long commute for these services may not be a viable solution.

The location of the practice can also influence the cost of your care in that neurosurgeons can practice in numerous medical institutions, depending on their arrangements and preferences. Some maintain a private clinic, others rent space in a medical center, and many have hospital privileges. When you undergo neurosurgery, you will need to pay for the use of the operating room and related amenities.

Paying for Neuro-Spinal Treatment

In most cases, the full cost of your neurological surgery or therapy will be due on or before your appointment. You should ask your chosen neurosurgeon or clinic for more specific information about payment options, but most practices accept major credit cards, cash, and checks.

If your insurance provider covers neurological care, you will need to make arrangements with your company and clinic before your treatment. In some cases, your insurance provider may handle payment directly with your practice, but you could need to submit receipts for reimbursement, pay your deductible amount to the clinic, or provide a co-pay amount.

If you do not have health insurance or your provider does not cover neurological care, you may use financing to pay for your procedure. In this case, you will need to work out the details of your loan with your neurological practice before your procedure so that you can provide the full amount before the day of your treatment.

If you do not have health insurance or your provider does not cover neurological care, you may use financing to pay for your procedure.

If you do not want or qualify for financing, but do not have health insurance, you may opt to pay for your neurological treatment out of pocket, using your income or savings. If you are able to pay the entirety of your treatment cost upfront, you should inquire with your clinic about special discounts or packages available. Many practices provide incentives for patients who are able to pay in full for their care.

If you are struggling to find a way to pay for your neurological treatment, some clinics offer financial aid or hardship discounts. You may need to explain your circumstances or seek assistance from local governmental aid organizations to become eligible for these programs.

No matter how you pay for your neurological treatment, you should make sure to get an itemized receipt. This will allow you to better understand the individual costs involved in your procedure, check for accounting errors, and save this information for your medical and financial records. Your insurance provider may also require you to submit a copy of this receipt.

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Neuro-Spinal Treatment and Insurance

The central nervous system is vital to proper bodily function, so most health insurance providers will cover at least a portion of necessary neurological treatments. The 2010 American Affordable Care Act stipulates that providers cannot deny you insurance based on a pre-existing neurological condition or attempt to cancel your coverage if you become ill.

Neuro-spinal treatment encompasses a wide variety of surgeries, therapies, and medications, so you should check with your provider to learn more about what aspects of your care are and are not covered. Most will cover the cost of life-saving neurosurgery, and HMO plans must include physical therapy in their benefits to meet federal qualifications. However, your insurance provider may not cover the cost of your painkilling medications, orthotic devices, certain diagnostic tests, or any treatments that could be deemed elective, such as TENS or acupuncture. In addition, your plan may only cover treatment with specific providers and clinics, so you should always check with prospective neurological practices to determine if they work with your company.

Your insurance provider may not cover the cost of your painkilling medications, orthotic devices, certain diagnostic tests, or any treatments that could be deemed elective.

You may also need to follow specific protocols to ensure that your treatments fall under your health insurance provider's coverage requirements. For example, your primary care physician may need to refer you to physical therapy in order for this treatment to be covered.

If you are considering neuro-spinal treatment, you should contact your health insurance provider to inquire about the specifics of your plan. This will allow you to budget for your treatment and choose and appropriate clinic. In addition, if you suffer from a neurological condition, you may want to consider modifying your insurance coverage to better assist you with your distinctive medical needs.

Financing Neuro-Spinal Treatment

If you do not have health insurance or cannot cover the portion of your neurological treatment costs not paid for by your provider, you may be able to finance your treatment. This involves taking out a loan so that you can pay the clinic in full and then gradually paying off the amount in monthly installments, plus interest, over a period of several months to five years. Some neurological clinics may provide in-house financing, in which case you will work out a payment plan, deposit, and interest rate with the practice itself. You may also be able to take a loan out through a traditional bank or medical credit company, such as CareCredit or Compassionate Finance3. To take advantage of any of these financing options, you will need to qualify for a loan and commit to making regular payments.

The Cost of Minimally Invasive Surgery

Many neurosurgeons now use sophisticated techniques to provide minimally invasive neurosurgery. This can reduce the amount of discomfort associated with a given procedure, shorten your healing time, and minimize your risk for complications and side effects. Some of the most common minimally invasive neurosurgery techniques include:

  • Endoscopic methods. Neurosurgeons can use tiny instruments and a small computer-controlled camera to modify patients' brain and spinal cord tissues with just short incisions in the tissue or small openings in the bone. For example, surgeons can perform endonasal brain surgery, inserting endoscopic instruments through the sinus, nose, and mouth. They can also use endoscopes in a variety of spinal procedures.
  • Laser surgery. In some cases, neurosurgeons may use precise, powerful bursts of light energy from lasers to modify brain and spinal cord tissue. For example, they may employ laser ablation to treat an irritated nerve. Laser spine and brain surgeries are still in the experimental stages, and neurosurgeons continue to debate their efficacy.
  • Robotic assistance. Some neurosurgeons are beginning to utilize robotic technology to perform more accurate, minimally invasive procedures. By programming these tools, they are able to make smaller incisions. Robotic assistance is used most often in complex brain surgeries.
  • Microscopic techniques. Since neurological treatment often involves making tiny adjustments to tissue, some neurosurgeons are now employing surgical microscopes and tiny instruments to perform procedures more effectively. This allows them to adjust only the necessary tissue and make smaller openings in the skin and bones.

Depending on the location of the surgery and the exact techniques used, minimally invasive procedures may be more or less expensive than conventional neurosurgery. For example, kyphoplasty®, a minimally invasive spinal surgery technique that involves injecting cement between the vertebrae to fuse them, costs about $6,000 more per vertebra than the traditional spinal fusion procedure. In contrast, endoscopic techniques can cut the cost of brain surgery roughly in half, and a 2014 study in Neurological Focus found that minimally invasive spine surgery saves patients up to 33.68 percent in expenses.

If you are interested in undergoing minimally invasive neurosurgery, speak with your doctor about the available techniques and their potential benefits to learn more. You should not opt for minimally invasive techniques simply to save money, nor should you avoid them due to cost concerns if they would improve your surgical outcomes and wellbeing.

The Cost of Advanced Technology

An MRI machine and images of the brain

As a delicate and precise field of medicine, neurosurgery can often be improved by advanced technologies. High-tech surgical tools often require a large upfront investment on the part of the practice. For example, robotic surgical devices and MRI systems typically cost over one million dollars to purchase. These costs are then passed down to patients, who pay more to work with surgeons who use the latest tools and techniques.

In some cases, you may pay more for neurological care from a practice that uses these technologies even if they are not used during your procedure. For example, a neurological clinic that has recently acquired a surgical robot may increase its overall prices to compensate for this investment, meaning that your initial consultation costs more, even though the robot is not involved in this process.

High-tech surgical tools often require a large upfront investment on the part of the practice.

In other cases, however, advanced technology can actually save you money on your procedure. As discussed above, minimally invasive endoscopic surgeries can save you up to half of your surgical costs, and this doesn't even factor in the expenses you save by recovering more quickly and avoiding complications.

While non-surgical and surgical techniques are rapidly advancing, most of the advanced technologies used in neurosurgery are concentrated in imaging tools. These sophisticated diagnostic apparatuses provide neurosurgeons with more accurate, detailed information, but they do come at a price. For example, installing a new fMRI suite may cost up to $2.8 million. This significant expense also affects your costs, since practices charge an average of $2600 per scan for fMRI imaging. However, most insurance providers cover this test, and investing in accurate diagnosis could save you thousands of dollars in treatment costs over the long term.

If you are interested in using advanced technology for your neurological care or want to understand how these tools affect the price of your surgery or therapy, contact your neurological practice to find out more. Each clinic calculates these expenses differently. In addition, remember that sophisticated instruments are just facets of your neurological care-the practice with the latest devices may not be the best for your particular needs.

RELATED: Find a qualified neuro-spinal surgeon in your area

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