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11 Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

The medical costs in the United States are astronomically high, as evidenced by the most expensive hospital treatments in America. While one of the characteristics of a developed nation is free healthcare provided to all of its citizens, such an arrangement is conspicuously absent in America. There is a multitude of reasons behind this, with one of the main reasons being the fact that free healthcare will result in a significant increase in tax rates, something vehemently opposed by most of the population.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

Nataliia K/

Another reason behind the extremely high prices behind medical treatments is the practice of the insurance companies. For people who have medical insurance, it is the insurance companies who have to pay for the procedures. And if there is one thing insurance companies are famous for, it is their inability to pay up. Hence, when they get stuck with the bill, they argue with the hospital and haggle in order to lower their bills. And if there is another thing insurance industries are famous for, it is their ability to lower the cost they have to pay. Hence, they are often successful at lowering the medical bills. To counter this, hospitals have increased the charges of medical procedures significantly more than their cost. This is a huge burden for the people who do not own insurance, as they do not have the knowledge or the resources or the time to try and lower the bills.

It is no secret that human beings are very fragile. We can suffer from any of a countless diseases and that doesn’t even include accidents that occur on a daily basis. This is why the United States managed to record over 38.6 million hospital stays in just one year alone (2011). These visits cost the American economy an incredible 387 billion dollars. Yes, billion with a B! Of these stays, nearly 30% involved OR procedures which also managed to make up nearly half the 387 billion dollars mentioned earlier.

It is easy to understand why over 80% of the total hospital stays include people in the 20-84 age group. Furthermore, females tended to make up around half of the total number of people having to make hospital visits. Unsurprisingly, most of the people who had to visit the hospital had either private insurance or were supported by Medicare.

Another reason why the medical procedures are so expensive in the United States is due to the astronomically high cost of drugs in the country. You might be surprised to find out that unlike in other Western countries where the government negotiates prices with drug manufacturers, in the United States, Congress has specifically forbidden Medicare to use its power to negotiate drug prices. This can result in the company charging exorbitant prices for drugs in order to recover the money invested in their research and development. Others can simply misuse this power in order to vastly increase their prices as exhibited by the now infamous Martin Shkreli incident, where Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of a life saving drug from $13.5 to $750, leading to him being dubbed as the most hated person in the United States.

Despite the high prices charged, the United States does not even feature in the list of countries with the best hospitals, a fact which is as damning as indicative of the fact that high prices do not necessarily mean high quality. We found out most expensive treatments in America from a report prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The prices below represent the average cost per stay from 2011, the only year this data is available for. 

11. Hip replacement

Average cost per stay in hospital: $17,200

A hip replacement is often the preferred method of dealing with a hip fracture or arthritis when it becomes too painful even to stand up. It is one of the most common procedures performed in the United States, with over 300,000 hip replacements performed annually.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

Dmitry Kalinovsky/

10. Percutaneous coronary angioplasty (PTCA)

Average cost per stay in hospital: $18,800

This is another fancy sounding medical procedure with a relatively simple task; open up blocked coronary arteries. In this process, once the blockage is identified, a tiny balloon is sent into the artery, where it helps to compress the blocked area before deflating. This increases the area through which the blood can pass.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

9. Debridement of wound, infection or burn

Average cost per stay in hospital: $20,700

Debridement is one of the most important parts in ensuring the healing of a burn, infection or a wound. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the dead or the infected tissues, to facilitate the healing process. You might be disgusted to learn this but one of the ways to remove the tissue is using selectively bred maggots, which only eat necrotic tissue.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America


8. Amputation of lower extremity

Average cost per stay in hospital: $21,200

One of the most difficult decisions a surgeon has to make is to decide whether an amputation of the lower extremity is necessary or not. It is one of the oldest medical procedures ever performed. The reason this is such an important decision is because it is a permanent decision and the loss of a limb can have severe psychological impacts on the patient.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

Mykola Komarovskyy/

7. Lobectomy or pneumonectomy

Average cost per stay in hospital: $23,000

While performing a lobectomy, a lobe of an organ is removed professionally by a surgeon. It is most commonly performed to remove part of a lung, but it can also be used to refer to the removal of a part of the brain, liver or even the thyroid gland among other organs. This surgery is often performed to remove the part of an organ which has been infected by cancer to stop the disease from spreading to the unaffected parts..

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America


6. Colorectal Resection

Average cost per stay in hospital: $23,400

Colorectal resection is one of the most expensive medical treatments in America, preferred when the doctors need a procedure in order to prevent diseases or treat diseases which have already affected the colon of the patient. In this surgery, either part or all of the large intestine is removed by the doctors.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

5. Spinal Fusion

Average cost per stay in hospital: $27,600

Spinal fusion is a surgery performed when the small bones of the spine start causing problems to a person. This type of procedure is preferred only when the source of the pain can be accurately determined by the doctor. To determine that, the doctor can often order a variety of tests which include but are not limited to X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans as well. “The basic idea is to fuse together the painful vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone.”

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

Spotmatik Ltd /

4. Procedures related to cardiac pacemaker or cardioverter/defibrillator

Average cost per stay in hospital: $33,200

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator refers to a device that surgeons plant inside of your body which has the necessary technology in order to perform pacing, defibrillation and cardioversion of your heart. With this technology, the device is an excellent piece of equipment which can be used in order to correct cardiac arrhythmia,  which can often be life threatening. These devices can last between 6-10 years.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America


3. Small bowel resection

Average cost per stay in hospital: $34,500

Small bowel resection is a surgery performed in order to remove the small bowel either partly or completely. It is generally performed when the small bowel has either been blocked or even infected due to some disease. If you were unaware that there is an organ called the small bowel inside you, then you need not worry. It is simply another word for the small intestine, the place where most of the digestion of your food takes place.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

Image Point Fr/

2. Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)

Average cost per stay in hospital: $38,700

The blood flow to the heart is one of the most important processes that takes place in our body. Coronary artery bypass graft is generally preferred by surgeons to treat people who are suffering from coronary heart disease and is administered to increase the blood flow to the heart. In this disease, plaque tends to build up in the arteries, which in turn blocks the supply of the blood to the heart. The surgery is performed to correct this issue, which can even lead to death.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America

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1. Heart Valve Procedures

Average cost per stay in hospital: $53,400

With an average cost of over $50,000, heart valve procedures top the list of the 11 most expensive medical treatments in America. Heart valve procedures are administered in order to ensure that the four valves in our heart responsible for the correct flow of blood, perform their duty correctly. Such procedures are generally performed when the valve fails to perform its job in directing the blood flow.

Most Expensive Hospital Treatments in America