Colorado Veteran Owes More Than $80,000 for Emergency Appendix Surgery

By Consumers For Quality Care, on December 15, 2021

Colorado Veteran Owes More Than $80,000 for Emergency Appendix Surgery

Shannon Harness, a military veteran in Colorado, rushed to the closest hospital after waking up with severe pain in his abdomen. A CT scan at Rockies Regional Medical Center confirmed he had appendicitis. A surgeon performed the procedure and released Harness. Several days later, he once again felt sharp pains, sending him back to the hospital. It turned out a brick-sized blood clot had formed, a rare complication that required a second emergency surgery. It took several months to recover, and then the bills started to arrive.

Harness, who does not have insurance, owed the hospital more than $80,000, and that was before bills came for the doctors and surgeon, according to NPR. An estimate by Healthcare Bluebook found that the procedure should have cost around $12,600 in Colorado.

Consumers without insurance, like Harness, are especially vulnerable to sky-high hospital bills. Without the negotiating power of an insurer, they are left paying the list price – which is often inflated from what consumers ultimately pay.

While the hospital offered charity care and payment plans, Harness barely missed the cut offs for assistance, leaving him stuck with the full bill. He eventually was able to negotiate his bills by about $30,000. The remainder is still an exorbitant sum.

“I would not be able to do it by myself — I wouldn’t have another choice other than taking out a loan,” he says. “Before the appendectomy, I was looking for property and homes to purchase and that is pretty much completely off the table right now.”

A health care system which punishes the uninsured, causing them to go further into medical debt, is not sustainable. CQC urges hospitals and insurers to work with consumers to avoid scenarios which only perpetuate flaws found in our health care system.