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Seungwon Yoon, Michael A. Mooney, Michael A. Bohl, John P. Sheehy, Peter Nakaji, Andrew S. Little and Michael T. Lawton


With drastic changes to the health insurance market, patient cost sharing has significantly increased in recent years. However, the patient financial burden, or out-of-pocket (OOP) costs, for surgical procedures is poorly understood. The goal of this study was to analyze patient OOP spending in cranial neurosurgery and identify drivers of OOP spending growth.


For 6569 consecutive patients who underwent cranial neurosurgery from 2013 to 2016 at the authors’ institution, the authors created univariate and multivariate mixed-effects models to investigate the effect of patient demographic and clinical factors on patient OOP spending. The authors examined OOP payments stratified into 10 subsets of case categories and created a generalized linear model to study the growth of OOP spending over time.


In the multivariate model, case categories (craniotomy for pain, tumor, and vascular lesions), commercial insurance, and out-of-network plans were significant predictors of higher OOP payments for patients (all p < 0.05). Patient spending varied substantially across procedure types, with patients undergoing craniotomy for pain ($1151 ± $209) having the highest mean OOP payments. On average, commercially insured patients spent nearly twice as much in OOP payments as the overall population. From 2013 to 2016, the mean patient OOP spending increased 17%, from $598 to $698 per patient encounter. Commercially insured patients experienced more significant growth in OOP spending, with a cumulative rate of growth of 42% ($991 in 2013 to $1403 in 2016).


Even after controlling for inflation, case-mix differences, and partial fiscal periods, OOP spending for cranial neurosurgery patients significantly increased from 2013 to 2016. The mean OOP spending for commercially insured neurosurgical patients exceeded $1400 in 2016, with an average annual growth rate of 13%. As patient cost sharing in health insurance plans becomes more prevalent, patients and providers must consider the potential financial burden for patients receiving specialized neurosurgical care.