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Emergency Room Overcharges Patient now Debt Collector Victim

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An Alabama woman billed thousands of dollars in emergency room overcharges for gallbladder surgery now debt collector victim

Arley, ALCatrina arrived at the hospital emergency room bent over in pain--three days later she was sent home after having her gallbladder removed. The surgery went well--until the bills arrived. Particularly galling was a CT Scan charge about three times more than the national average cost--a typical example of ER overcharges. (Granted, scans are typically more expensive when ordered in an ER.) Her total bill rings in at 86,381.04.

Gallbladder Surgery Charges


An online search for the average charge of gallbladder removal is frustrating, to say the least. There’s a wide range of differences and somewhat dependent on location. For example, a Florida hospital charged from $48,631 to almost $90,000; At the Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa, AZ, the price for a laparoscopic gallbladder removal without complications is listed as $64,189.  Catrina would have been better off getting a round-trip ticket from Alabama to Oklahoma City: the Surgery Center of Oklahoma posts its services online. Gallbladder removal with liver biopsy is a bargain at $6,465.

As for CT Scan costs, they range from $270 to $5,000. Again, the cost depends on the facility, your location (if you live in an urban area, you likely have more options to choose from), and whether you pay in cash or bill your insurance provider.

Catrina’s health insurance covered most of her gallbladder removal surgery because she had proof of gallstones. Before having surgery on New Years Day she had gone to Walker Baptist Hospital’s ER in pain a few months earlier. “Just walking in the door cost $1,570. I had a CT Scan and that’s when they told me I had gallstones,” says Catrina. “They gave me a Tylenol and a glass of water and sent me home.”  

Catrina is on the hook for all the costs of that first visit and she has to co-pay $2,500 for the surgery. “I was in hospital for three days. Most people are in and out in one day after laparoscopic gallbladder surgery but my gallbladder was so enlarged they had to make a bigger incision. And I had a room to myself: I didn’t ask for that so how could they charge me for it? She wasn’t informed of any charges until weeks later.

“Because I haven’t paid any of these ER overcharges I have a bad credit report,” adds Catrina. “I have been threatened by debt collectors and my bills keep getting sold to other bill collectors – what a racket! They call me on my cell phone but I try not to answer. When I got my insurance statement and the bill I couldn’t believe it. OMG it got me so mad, these ER charges are crazy.” Catrina is hopeful that an attorney can negotiate these overcharges.

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