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Hospital billing angst, part 2

Earlier this week, I received the actual bill for Jordan's visit to Children's Hospital in January. Since the bill was for over $1,100 (almost $600 for which we are responsible), I was fully expecting an itemized bill for this. But, alas, the bill had one line, with a date, an abbreviation of EMR and the price.

Even if I made six figures (or any figures, really) or if the insurance covered these costs, how is it acceptable not to explain this exorbitant cost, which is on top of the almost $600 bill we received last week for physician charges for the visit?!

So I called UPMC to request an itemized bill, saying I would not pay it without knowing what I was paying for. I received that "itemized" bill today. This one had two lines:


Well, shoot, that certainly cleared everything up! As you can imagine, I was not impressed with this dearth of information, so I called billing back. The same woman who sent me the itemized bill said she is not clinically trained, so she is unable to explain what those abbreviations mean. Fair enough, but shouldn't information about the bill be somehow accessible to someone in billing?

I talked to several more people throughout the afternoon. A nurse was able to explain some of the first line (simple laceration, she called it), which, she said, should be the cost for the staples. The second item is just for coming in, a charge you pay even if nothing happens. Another person I spoke with said that the $750 is just what the hospital charges for a procedure like this.

I told pretty much everyone I spoke to this same thing: I find it unacceptable that not only can no one break down the costs for me, but also that the hospital charges $750 for staples. To be fair, the PA used soap and water to clean Jordan's cut, a syringe to rinse her head, and a towel to wipe her head dry, so I can see where the costs can add up. I bet the use of the towel alone was $200. Staples were probably the big ticket item, perhaps costing around $400. Water is not free either, people!

I think this is a problem, and I am not sure why there is not more outrage over this. I feel a letter to someone coming on.


Anonymous said…
I can understand your frustration about paying a bill that you do not even know is correct. I would be pretty mad if no one could tell me what I was paying for. People do make mistakes.

But as for the high cost, that is life and a tiny amount compared to some hospital bills. It sucks for sure (and makes you wonder how people get by without health insurance).

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