Doctors and patients both view surgery to treat a bulging disc as a last-resort option for a number of reasons. Any type of surgery involves some degree of risk for complication, especially traditional open spine surgery, which is why conservative treatments will usually be pursued first. Additionally, a bulging disc can often improve with time, with options like medication, physical therapy and spinal injections helping manage symptoms while the progress of the condition is monitored.

Typical bulging disc surgery costs

Another reason why many patients are reluctant to undergo bulging disc surgery is cost. The exact out of pocket cost for spine surgery to treat a bulging disc varies by a large number of factors, including the procedure, the facility and the surgeon. According to Healthcare Bluebook, reported costs billed to health plan providers for an anterior discectomy, which is one procedure used to treat conditions such as a bulging disc, can range from $15,366 to $48,020. For uninsured patients, some surgery providers may negotiate a lower surgery cost for patients who are self-paying for a procedure.

Patients with health insurance can pay significantly less depending on how their plan is structured. Many insurance plans require a coinsurance payment of 10 to 40 percent of the procedure after the deductible has been met, up to the out-of-pocket maximum allowed by the plan. For example, the 2017 plan year out-of-pocket limit for covered services in plans on the insurance marketplace is $7,150 for individual plans and $14,300 for a family plan.

Another important consideration is that most health care providers will ask patients to pay these costs based on an estimate of what the insurance company will pay. Which means there can be additional charges billed if the insurance pays less than what was estimated.

Factors that determine bulging disc surgery cost

There are three main parts that determine the cost of spine surgery:

  • Facility or hospital fee
  • Surgeon’s fee
  • Cost of hardware

Factors like physical therapy and rehabilitation, prescription drugs and missed time from work should also be considered when estimating the total cost of bulging disc surgery. The specific type of procedure and surgical setting can also play a big role in determining cost. For example, there are minimally invasive bulging disc procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory surgery center, which can reduce many of the costs associated with hospital-based procedures.

Although it is difficult to put a price on relief, it is still important to have any of your cost-based questions and concerns answered before you undergo a procedure. That way you can be properly focused on the preparation and recovery process for bulging disc surgery.