Monday, December 29, 2014

Cataract Surgery and Cost

A wise ophthalmologist once said every person will eventually need cataract surgery if they live long enough.  The number of Americans over the age of 40 with cataracts is 20.5 million!  3 million plus Americans had cataract surgery in 2012.  As we live longer and longer cataracts and their removal has been more prevalent.

The good news cataract surgery has become a much more tolerable for patients over the years.  From a several day hospital stay to a 2 hour out patient procedure.  The complexity of the surgery and the additional benefits has also mushroomed.  Without getting into the medical detail of the surgery, it has moved from only requiring a single scalpel and a freeze probe. With the end result requiring glasses up to a 1/4 inch thick to see after the surgery. Today it's microsurgery involving an expensive microscope, micro tools, and over 1/2 million dollars of ultrasound and LASER machines.

Now the part everyone and no one wants to talk about: cost.  Technology is outpacing our capability to pay for it.  Medicare payment for cataract surgery has DECREASED by 61% while inflation during the same period has gone UP 73%.  So how is cataract surgery able to still be done and costs covered.  The system has become more efficient.  But you can only cut so much "fat" before there are critical changes in the process.

Having cataract surgery today with the "standard" methodology and equipment will restore vision. With the advent of multifocal implants and LASER cataract surgery, the vision is not only restored but patients may have better quality vision without glasses or contacts.  Is it essential to not where glasses, or is a mild glare at night time.