In “The High Cost of Failing Artificial Hips,” the New York Times has given front-page treatment to a topic that has perplexed many Americans over the last several years: the high cost of all-metal artificial hips that need to be replaced prematurely.
“Medical and legal experts estimate the hip failures may cost taxpayers, insurers, employers and others billions of dollars in coming years, contributing to the soaring cost of health care,” reporter Barry Meier reports. “The financial fallout is expected to be unusually large and complex because the episode involves a class of products, not a single device or just one company.”
The article addresses individual examples of those who have been affected by a defective hip, and the amount of bills that the patient is then expected to pay because of the defect.
From the Times report: “The so-called metal-on-metal hips like Mr. Dougherty’s, ones in which a device’s ball and joint are made of metal, are failing at high rates within a few years instead of lasting 15 years or more, as artificial joints normally do. The wear of metal parts against each other is generating debris that is damaging tissue and, in some cases, crippling patients. The incidents have set off a financial scramble. Recently, lawsuits and complaints against makers of all-metal replacement hips passed the 5,000 mark. Insurers are alerting patients that they plan to recover their expenses from any settlement money that patients receive. Medicare is also expected to try to recover its costs.”
According to the article, Until a recent sharp decline, all-metal implants accounted for nearly one-third of the estimated 250,000 hip replacements performed each year in the United States. Some 500,000 patients have received an all-metal replacement hip, according to one estimate. A new study found that no new artificial hip or knee introduced during a recent five-year period — implants that included some of the all-metal hips — were more durable than older devices, and 30 percent were worse. The piece points to the DePuy division of Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer Holdings as two troubling examples of suppliers of these types of devices.
[More on Zimmer Knee Problems]