I sent the following to the patient relations person this evening:
I attach two bills which I have just paid, and a screenshot to demonstrate how badly I have been overcharged.
I am appalled. In mid-December I visited your emergency department because my doctor insisted. I had been bitten by a cat and since the punctures went deeply into a finger joint, she advised me that without prompt IV antibiotic, I was at risk of losing use of the hand. I was treated with IV ampicillin, given some pills and with a little help from one of your employees, fashioned my own splint. More about that later. I had to come back in exactly 12 hours for another dose, and I did.
Frankly, knowing what I know now, I would hesitate! It might be worth the risk. The ER charge for 2 visits ($1,217) seems staggering but not unusual in today’s health care reality– right up until the moment that it becomes clear that this was some kind of a base charge only; there are separate charges for each and every action taken on my case. The “visit” charges: $756 plus $461, must be purely for administration. How difficult was it to put a wristband ID on me? Honest, I didn’t scream and thrash about, although perhaps I should have.
Let’s look at those itemized charges: $88 to give me a shot (vaccine) and $86.38 for the vaccine itself. You charged $22.01 for each of the two doses of IV antibiotic, and $267 for the nurse to start the IV. She only had to do that once, since I was a good sport and kept the catheter in my arm between the 2 visits. You charged $9.54 for the oral antibiotics I took with me, and .90 cents for the tablet of Percocet. You should enclose more of that with your bills. I might have been too blissed out to send this note.
But here’s where I really lose it. Okay, I also come pretty close to losing it over a $1,217 charge for a wristband ID and lots of bookkeeping to send these outrageous bills, but I digress.
$341 to administer a finger splint. Let me put this in terms you can understand. Just before I left, a sweet young man appeared with a piece of flexible metal with a foam cushion. He asked me to bend it around my swollen finger to avoid accidentally hurting me. I complied. He then wound some gauze around it, and handed me some paper tape to secure the ends. $341? I attach a screenshot from Amazon. I could buy this splint– me, an individual with zero bulk buying power, for $2.18. Seriously! Given the number of these puppies that you buy, I bet you could talk them down to .50 cents. $341? Just saying! Oh wait, was it the gauze? The paper tape? Kinda doubt it.
I am entering into similar discussions with my estimable insurance plan, Tufts Navigator (motto, “We cover nothing!”) in the hope that they will apply some pressure to require a modicum of common sense, but I am far from sanguine. In the meantime, be a mensch and tell me what you paid for that splint. No fibbing! I will catch you if you do.
**********Okay, back to the RBC. This was not the cat’s fault. His name is Charlie and he belongs to my neighbors. He is a Maine Coon, about the size of a Lhasa Apso. Charlie owns the whole street. On that morning in December, I stepped on the porch to get the paper and Charlie slipped inside for a visit. My dog tried to kill him, so I had to rescue Charlie. I do not blame him for biting me. He holds no grudge either: he still naps on my porch when the sun is right.