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Hospital (Photo credit: José Goulão)


Kid #2 had two visits to the local hospital emergency room late last year.  Both times I called 911 and she was transported by ambulance.  The first time (a suicide attempt), I was asked about making a co-pay; I only remember mumbling something about not knowing if I had my checkbook but maybe I had a credit card.  It’s a fuzzy memory and the person asking went away, never to return or follow-up.


The second visit was less dire (a seizure), but required a CAT scan and some fairly extensive blood tests.  Really, once the ER doctor got a look at the marks from kid #2’s cutting, he quit doing anything about the seizure and just called for a psych evaluation.


Now the bills are arriving.  I thought the first visit would be far more expensive given the number of IV’s, nurses, and security guards involved.  (At this hospital, in those circumstances, a guard was posted at the door/curtain for the duration.)  The bill for that night was $5300.  An adjustment of $1900 was made, bringing the total to $3400.  The insurance paid all but $50.


The second visit’s charges were $2900 for radiology (the CAT scan), $2100 for laboratory services, and $1400 for emergency care services.  Grand total $6400, less an adjustment of $2400, so $4000 for that night.  Again, I was only billed $50.


I’m incredibly lucky to have good health insurance, but can we talk about the $4300 in adjustments?  Those are the excessive fees the hospital billed but the insurance company negotiated down.  Regular people don’t get those discounts.  No, regular people go bankrupt trying to pay overinflated hospital bills.


Shouldn’t a CAT scan cost the same, whether you have insurance or not?  And does it really cost $2900 to run the machine for a five-minute test?  I get that it was a Sunday night and the well-trained staffer had to be paid, but $2900?  Really?


From my place at the bedside, kid #2 was far better cared for on her first visit than on her second.  Aside from the CAT scan, the hospital did nothing after calling the psych team.  Oh wait, they advised me to take her to her regular doctor for a referral to a neurologist.  Which I had figured out on my own, no charge.