By Consumers for Quality Care, on May 7, 2018
A woman was charged $5,751 for an ice pack and a bandage, according to Vox.
In 2016, Jessica Pell fainted, fell and hit her head, and cut her ear. She went to emergency room where she received an ice pack and bandage for her ear. Pell was wary of receiving surprise medical bills, so she remained cautious, making sure she asked providers if they were in her network. When she learned that the plastic surgeon who would treat her was out of her network, she declined care and left. Instead, she went to an in-network facility.
“I decided to decline treatment because I can’t really afford any surprise bills right now,” she said. “The bill I’d probably incur would not be worth saving my ear, which was sad but a choice I had to make.”
Despite Pell’s vigilance, she ended up receiving a bill for $4,989.
“It’s for the ice pack and the bandage,” Pell said of the fee. “That is the only tangible thing they could bill me for.”
Pell’s insurance company had already paid $862 to the hospital, the price they deemed “reasonable and appropriate” for the services Pell received. However, the hospital still held her responsible for the remaining amount.
“I was triaged, waited and taken to have myself examined,” [Pell explained.] “I specifically asked on multiple occasions, before anyone touched me, ‘are you out of network? If you are, I decline medical attention.’ I received an icepack and ace bandage and left to seek in-network medical assistance.”
Unfortunately, Vox explains that Pell’s experience is far too common.
Multiple patients submitted bills to our database for ER visits where they declined treatment because they learned it would be out of network, were frustrated with the wait time, or began to feel better.
They all ended up with significant medical bills, in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. These fees were often on top of additional fees from another health care provider where they ultimately did receive treatment.
Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician, was perplexed by the size of Pell’s bill. While he admitted that he believed that there should some sort of triage fee, he could not fathom why it would be in excess of $5,000.
He said that it seemed “excessive and unrealistic.”
“I don’t know why there would be a $5,000 charge for this,” he continued. “That certainly seems like a lot.”
Pell was able to contest her bill. However, looking back on the experience, Pell is at a loss of how she could have avoided the surprise bill.
“I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would have done it exactly the same,” she says. “I followed my instincts, and they were all correct. There is no way for me to have known. There was no way to avoid this.”