$2,000 for two bags of saline? One former nurse says something’s gotta give

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By Consumers Union on Friday, August 15th, 2014

There’s a basic problem with the cost of medical care: when you really need help, you’re not exactly in a position to negotiate. Even the most well informed patients can fall victim to the system, as Sandra from Huntington Beach, Calif. recently discovered.

As a retired operating room nurse of 30 years, Sandra,knows a thing or two about our healthcare system, including how much a bag of saline should cost. So she was shocked when, after going into the hospital to treat her severe dehydration she got a bill for $2,000.

From her work as a nurse, Sandra knew it cost the hospital around $2.50 per bag for the two bags of IV fluid she received. “As a nurse, I know there are other costs involved – staff, beds, et cetera – but this was shocking.”

She hadn’t hit her health plan’s deductible yet, so Sandra had to pay out-of-pocket for the full amount. She says it’s hard to understand how something urgent and important can be so expensive: “I didn’t have a choice – I had to get the fluids. And I had to pay.”

“Even when people do their homework, the cost can be shocking,” says Sandra. “If you just pay the bill – even if they’ve billed you too much – the hospital won’t say anything. Most people don’t think to challenge their bills.”

Have you received a medical bill that seems over-the-top? Let us know: share your story here. 

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