Friday, March 25, 2011

Want To Know Why Anesthesiology Is Such A Popular Field? Try $5,000 Per Hour

L.A. Times columnist David Lazarus recently wrote about an outlandish hospital bill from one of our local premier hospitals, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. One of his readers sent him her hospital bill after she had a laparoscopic assisted hysterectomy at the facility. She was in the hospital for about four hours, with probably only two of those hours actually in the operating room. Her charge from the hospital came to over $65,000.  Granted the hospital she went to was Cedars, on par with some of the best hospitals in the country like Brigham and Women's or Mayo. Still $65,000 seems excessive. For comparison, a study in 2007 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia showed the total hospital charges for a hysterectomy there average $5,707.

Now this was the upfront fee. Through her insurance company the charges were cut by 50% while the patient herself only had to pay $800 as her deductible. She herself has no quibbles about either the hospital or the insurance company. She just wanted the world to know about the dystopian world of medical billing in the America.

The interesting aspect about this article that fascinated me was the breakdown of the hospital charges. For a four hour stay, she was billed over $35,000 for the operating room, $13,000 for OR supplies, and get this, over $10,000 for anesthesia services. Ten thousand dollars for a case that may have required two hours of operating time. Even if the anesthesia bill was reduced by half like the rest of the hospital charges, the anesthesiologist made $5,000, or $2,500 per hour. Not bad for two hours of work on what sounds like a healthy patient. A few more cases like that and this anesthesiologist will be able to make his house and Porsche Panamera payments with only one day of work. Of course most anesthesiologists don't get the money they bill. Only people without insurance actually face the full charges and those are the patients least likely to pay any of their medical bills. And after deducting expenses like insurance and office overhead the take home pay is much much less than this. But still the amount on this lady's hospital bill is breathtaking.

Anesthesiology IS the ROAD to success. Congratulations to all those medical students who recently matched into an anesthesiology residency. You're well on your way to being the envy of the operating room.


  1. Unless the anesthesiologists are employed directly by the hospital (rare), this bill for "anesthesia services" has nothing to do with what the doctor is charging or receiving for his services. It's what the hospital is charging for providing the equipment, drugs, gases, non-MD personnel, etc. Your thesis is probably wrong.

  2. I'm just indulging in some hyperbole. Obviously anesthesiologists don't make $5,000/hr. We're not Wall Street tycoons, just humble medical doctors. With insurance company or Medicare negotiated rates the doctor is lucky to get a third of the charges.