Insanely Expensive Hospital Bills

  • Truly Insane

    After Congress recently passed a sweeping health care reform package, some may be too quick to assume that this will cure everything. To be sure, there are many benefits that will kick in swiftly now that President Obama has signed the law, including: small business tax credits, closure of the Medicare coverage gap, free preventive care for Medicare recipients, and no more discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions. Photo Credit: bellatrix6
    Will Reform Fix Medical Costs?
  • Will Reform Fix Medical Costs?

    But will terrible overcharges continue to run rampant through the hospital and health care industry despite health care reform? We certainly hope not. Here are some truly awful stories of massive hospital bills we received from the public and from around the Web. Photo Credit: bellatrix6
    $17,000 Fingernail
  • $17,000 Fingernail

    Patient Pat sent us his story, which is fairly shocking: “I had an ingrown fingernail that I pulled out and it became infected. I went to the doctor who informed me that I had to be hospitalized immediately for surgery. I was put in the hospital for three days. The cost was over $17,000! I was livid. I never knew that a hangnail could be sooooo expensive.” Now you know, Pat. Instinctively I feel as if something like that should cost no more than $100, or a $20 to $40 co-pay if you have insurance. The doctor looks at the infection, treats it and sends you home with a prescription for antibiotics. Not sure why they hosed you for $17,000. Photo Credit: biddybidbidbid
    $240,000 Nightmare
  • $240,000 Nightmare

    From Sandi: “I had a heart attack in August 2009, next day had laser surgery to clear two major blockages; two balloon stents. A second surgery was required because I had potential concerns regarding kidneys, sent home after a week. Second surgery performed six weeks later, six hours again, awake the entire time, that night had an aneurism, two days later atrial fibrilation, went home in ten days with a total of five balloon stents. The total bill was $240,000.” Wow, that's a lot of hospital visits. Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet
    $240,000 Nightmare (cont.)
  • $240,000 Nightmare (cont.)

    If you're at home thinking $240,000 isn't that big of a hospital bill, let's put it into perspective. If you earn $40,000 per year, it would take you at least six years to make that much money, and that's if every cent you earn is going toward paying off medical bills. That can ruin a person’s finances and, in fact, a Harvard study has found that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., accounting for about half of personal bankruptcies filed. Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow
    $25,000 Bachelor Party Hernia!
  • $25,000 Bachelor Party Hernia!

    From Ethan: “Last summer I got a hernia during a freak bachelor party accident at a Mexican Costco... (Don’t ask. Suffice it to say, it was quite embarrassing.) My hospital bill for the minor (less than hour-long) outpatient surgery at a well-known hospital in Chicago was over $25,000!!! I was flabbergasted. Luckily, I had insurance that covered it, but I could not believe how insanely expensive the procedure was or what I would do if I didn’t have the insurance." We have to wonder what actually happened at that Mexican Costco bachelor party... what happens at Costco stays at Costco, I suppose. Assuming his surgery lasted for a full hour (it was actually less than that, he claims), his bill comes out to about $416.67 per minute. For that rate, he better have been operated on by House and Sanjay Gupta. And they better have used 24-karat gold needles and scalpels to do the surgery. Photo Credit: moacir
    Shady Hospital
  • Shady Hospital

    Elizabeth shared this with us: “My fiancée was in the hospital for eight days and had spinal fusion surgery. When he asked what the cost of the room, services, surgery, etc., was going to be, each time he was told either 'not to worry about it' or, to quote Dr. [redacted], 'Mother Teresa will take care of you.' Let me note that even though my fiancée is not a practicing Jew, he is Jewish. At every step of the way he asked the cost this or that would be since he did not have health insurance, he was denied.” Aversion to answering questions about the costs involved? Check. Religious insensitivity? Check. We could understand a doctor not bothering to tell a patient that an extra hospital gown is $5, but when you hear the total of this hospital stay, you'll understand why Elizabeth's fiancée was rightfully perturbed. Photo Credit: frenkieb
    Shady Hospital (cont.)
  • Shady Hospital (cont.)

    According to Elizabeth, the cost of the surgery was in the tens of thousands of dollars... some of the medical screws alone were $30,000 — yes, $30,000 for some metal screws. Also, her fiancée was sold “a walker that cost $185-$190, that I can get at Walgreens right now for $80, and then was told in the very next visit he did not need it.” That hospital sounds like the worst. Photo Credit: olenkaolja
    Other Absurd Charges
  • Other Absurd Charges

    Medical Billing Advocates of America has given us a few outrageous overcharges routinely found on hospital bills. As they explained, “Insurance companies rely on the discount arrangements to bring justification to the charges billed by hospitals. Therefore, you only pay 50 to 75% of the amount not billable. Also some discount contracts forbid you to question the charges or you lose the discount on all charges.” So these outrageous mystery charges are never questioned, because insurance companies are afraid the hospital will pull their discount arrangement — and force them to pay full price. This is a bit like agreeing to let someone mug you, because they promise to only take $200 from your wallet instead of the full $400. It’s still messed up. Photo Credit: amagill
    $345 Tylenol
  • $345 Tylenol

    One patient was charged $345 total, or $15 per pill for 23 pills of Tylenol. To put this outrageous charge into proper context, you can buy a 300-count bottle of acetaminophen for around $12.99. Photo Credit: effecktl
    Expensive Blanket
  • Expensive Blanket

    A patient was charged $158 for a “warming blanket.” That must have been one really nice blanket, especially since a Snuggie is retailing for about $20 these days (and it's not just a blanket, but a blanket with arms). Photo Credit: nadiapriestley
    $440 Medicine Cups
  • $440 Medicine Cups

    Medical Billing Advocates of America also told us about a patient that was charged $10 each for 44 medicine cups — that’s $440 total. For cheap disposable Dixie cups or something similar?! You know, the tiny cups that pills are served to you in?! There is absolutely nothing special about these cups and they can’t cost more than a penny or two to manufacture. Photo Credit: stevendepolo
    Gloves (Non-Sterile)
  • Gloves (Non-Sterile)

    This one is totally insane! $53 per pair of non-sterile gloves (sterile ones cost even more, the MBAA says) and the patient was charged for 97 pairs total — which comes out to $5,141. For that kind of money, I hope they were the Michael Jackson bejeweled gloves. Otherwise, this patient got ripped off, plain and simple. Photo Credit: recyclethis
    Marking Pen
  • Marking Pen

    $17.50 for a “marking pen” — just a normal pen used for marking the right body part before surgery. Presumably it isn’t a quill and inkwell from the 17th century, so I am not sure why these should cost patients any more than $1. Photo Credit: orangeacid
    Sanitary Napkins (Sterile)
  • Sanitary Napkins (Sterile)

    Two napkins were charged to a patient at $13 each, for a total of $26. That is stingy. I wonder how much a sheet of Kleenex or toilet paper would set you back. One thing is for sure though, I'm bringing my own roll of Charmin to the hospital. Photo Credit: nicmcphee
    “Oral Administration Fee”
  • “Oral Administration Fee”

    This one would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad. One patient was charged $6.25 each for 14 "oral administrations" ($87.50 total). What exactly is this about? It is a “Charge for Nurse to hand you medicine taken by mouth.” She hands you a pill, the hospital charges you another $6.25. Oh, capitalism! Photo Credit: brendan.adamson
    “Cough Support Device”
  • “Cough Support Device”

    A patient was charged $57.50 for a "cough support device." OK, sounds very scientific and medically necessary, but what is it exactly? It is described as a “Teddy Bear.” Yes, those cheap stuffed animals that some hospitals give patients are actually sophisticated cough support devices. Who knew? Photo Credit: macieklew
    “Surgical Packs/Drapes”
  • “Surgical Packs/Drapes”

    The MBAA also told us about a patient who was charged $2,820.07 for "surgical packs/drapes" but no quantity was listed, nor was a cost per item provided. You want privacy drapes or surgical packs, you have to pay up big time. And believe me, a hospital visit can get very awkward — fast — without those privacy drapes. Photo Credit: ifionlyknew
    Angry Yet?
  • Angry Yet?

    Upset by these overcharges? Discuss in the comments, or add your own true story of an outrageously expensive hospital visit. You can also join the discussion on Twitter by tweeting to @mainstr. Photo Credit: brykmantra
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