Knee and hip replacements top Bupa survey outlays

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Bupa has revealed its top ten surgical procedures in terms of benefit outlays with knee and hip replacements heading the list.

The insurer said eye, back and cardiac procedures were also prominent in the list for which it paid out more than $1.1 billion.

While many of the procedures related to the aging population, caesarean births ranked fourth with a claim cost of almost $126 million.

Bupa paid $420 million for knee and hip replacements, $154 million on lens procedures, $92 million on spinal fusion, $75 million on surgery related to obesity, $74 million on coronary procedures involving a stent and $58 million on pacemaker implantations.

"This data tells an interesting story. It shows in real terms the impact the ageing population and impact of obesity is having on the cost of healthcare," said Dr Dwayne Crombie, managing director of Bupa Health Insurance.

“These are all very good and very useful procedures. They are helping us live longer lives and have better quality of life. But many of these operations are symptomatic of people getting older and more of the population being overweight or obese.

“Greater access to more sophisticated technology to improve health outcomes should be celebrated, but we need to understand that these advances come with increased costs.

“It also tells us that if we want to be able to put downward pressure on health insurance premiums, we need to be able to trial different ways of delivering healthcare which don’t affect quality of care but may reduce cost or give patients more choice.

“This includes continuing to look at why prosthetics for hips and knees cost significantly more in Australia than other parts of the world. It means changing the mindset that a person must stay in hospital for rehabilitation after a knee or hip replacement where all the evidence says the outcome is the same or better if done in their home.

“And it also means understanding that surgery for many of these conditions could be avoided if appropriate preventative health measures, including weight management, are appropriately promoted and funded.

“We’re keen to have these discussions, to work with clinicians to see people getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time and for the right price,” added Dr Crombie.