Barry knew his daughter’s ER visit might be expensive – but he wasn’t expecting a $55,000 bill

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By Consumers Union on Friday, August 22nd, 2014

When Barry’s daughter was in a car accident, she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. He immediately went to the hospital to meet her. She had no broken bones and didn’t need any stitches, but Barry says the hospital staff insisted on her staying at the hospital for at least four hours while they ran some tests and did an MRI. He told us the nurse gave them Scotch tape, so his daughter could remove bits of broken glass herself.

Because of a mix-up, his daughter (who has health insurance) was billed as if she was uninsured.  She got bills in the mail for the whole hospital visit, including the ambulance ride– which came out to $55,000. Barry was floored: “$55,000 to get checked out?”

When the hospital finally verified that Barry’s daughter had insurance, the bill suddenly dropped to $19,000, part of which was paid by his daughter’s insurance. Barry says he was stunned by that difference in cost. It’s not uncommon for hospitals to make deals with insurance companies, bringing the price down compared to what someone might pay who has no insurance. And insurers may increase the cost for the privately insured to balance out lower reimbursements under other programs, such as Medicaid.

Have you experienced shocking emergency room bills – or other unpleasant medical billing surprises? Share your story here.

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