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Patients Rush To Have Surgery Before New Year Resets Clock

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

One of the busiest places to be this time of year is the operating room. But it's not because of holiday accidents. Huge numbers of patients have surgery in December by choice.

Dr. Tim Smith is a sinus surgeon at Oregon Health and Science University. The week before Christmas this year, he performed 10 surgeries in three days.

“We joke with one another that people think it's busy at the mall this time of year, they ought to check out their outpatient surgery centers.”

Smith says it wasn't like this a decade ago. But now surgeons across the Northwest expect a rush of patients wanting elective surgeries in December. The reason?

“They've already met their deductibles – their out of pocket layout for medical care over the course of the year," , says Smith "And by virtue of the way our healthcare system is set up, there's something of an artificial deadline in place on December the 31st.”

It's not just surgeries. Doctors say there's more demand for testing and annual exams this time of year.

A spokeswoman for Blue Cross of Idaho says it sees a 10-15 percent spike in claims each December.