Hospitals hit with a rush for surgery as the year ends

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's another kind of rush in December besides the shopping kind. It's the rush to have surgery before the end of the year.

Tausha Torez thought she'd be over an ear infection in no time when it hit three weeks ago. But the infection is now in bone, so she's prepping for surgery to remove the infection.

"It can actually travel to the brain from the mastoid bone, so that's why they were rushing me in here," said Torez.

It's very unlucky for her in one way, but maybe lucky in another. Torez is getting her surgery in before the new year. There was money left in the family's flexible spending account that can go toward her medical bills, and her family is close to meeting its insurance deductible for 2013.

"That sure worked out timely before the first of the year that we could get this all taken care of before the deductible starts all over again," said Torez.

After the new year, they would be paying at least $1,000 more out-of-pocket for Tausha's surgery.

It's why others are choosing to have surgery now. More than 55 operations have been done at St. Luke's Hospital some days in December compared to the usual 30 to 35.

"Our staff is working extra hours, working really hard, often staying past the time they are scheduled for," said Jeanette Walters, a nurse.

Walters thinks there might be even more urgency for patients this December than most. That's because many American workers are seeing their deductibles rise in the new year. Also, more are choosing health savings accounts for 2014 which come with lower insurance premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs.

"I think, too, a lot of people would rather get their surgeries done over holiday break," said Walters.

It's resulted in a rush that is sure to subside after New Year's.

This year, the government changed the rules on flexible spending accounts so you may be able to carry over $500 into the new year. But it's up to your employer to decide whether or not to allow that.

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