When Matt Anderson, a college student, headed to the hospital for a minor cut, he never imagined that his decision would result in a serious medical bill that he would struggle to pay off. After all, when you need medical care, you have to get it. Right?
Matt cut his finger with a knife late one night. His roommate, a biology major, had used that same knife to cut meat earlier, and was concerned about potential infection. He suggested Matt get the cut treated immediately.
Matt arrived at the emergency room of Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 11:00pm. Just after midnight a nurse cleaned the wound. A doctor came by later and applied liquid stitches, and Matt headed home at 1:00am.
But that's what health insurance is for, right? Wrong. Matt's family has a health insurance plan with a $4,000 deductible per person. That means that his family is responsible for the full amount of the bill.
In fact, the bill has gone to collections, as Matt's father is trying to negotiate a lower price. Matt feels guilty about the bill, but as a college student he's not rolling in dough. Matt even suggested that he find a way to use the remaining meals on his meal plan to get cash to help out with the bill.
So why is the bill so high? It includes a $704 facility fee, which is the cost of walking into the hospital for treatment. There's also a $873 charge which was billed twice, because Matt's visit technically took place over two days. Even though Matt was only in the hospital for two hours, he's being charged for the 11:00pm hour of one day, and the hour between midnight and 1:00am of the next day.
The Affordable Care Act did much to expand insurance coverage, but the high costs of medical care still go unchecked. The law did not affect price regulation, which is part of the reason people see soaring medical costs.
Matt's not the only one who's experienced the sticker shock of a hospital visit. Neil Chasan had a similar story of incredible hospital bill markup: "We took our infant to the ER in LA when he fell and cut his scalp on the corner of a wall. They charged us $500 for infants Tylenol. I called and offered to replace the bottle ($4.00) if the reversed the charge. They refused."
Susan Mello also shared her story about her daughter's massive hospital bill: "That is nothing, my daughter went to the ER in St Louis where she had been hit with a lacrosse ball in a game and the bill was $13,000 when she grabbed the old insurance card . We need universal coverage . We got it corrected but still the shock."
Want to avoid expensive hospital bills like Matt's? If you have an injury or illness which is more minor, going to a local clinic can be more affordable than heading straight to the hospital. Make sure that you understand your insurance, including what procedures and which facilities are and aren't covered. The more you know about your insurance, the better you can make informed decisions about your care.