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ER Charged $1,200 for Nosebleed

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Kansas City man with a nosebleed went to the ER at the local hospital (clinics were closed weekends) where a doctor inserted into his nose a cotton ball sprayed with decongestant and he was billed $1,200.

Kansas City, KSTony woke up late Saturday night with a nosebleed and not knowing what to do, his son drove him to emergency room at St. Lukes South Hospital. When Tony got the bill in the mail he almost had a stroke--a doctor had simply inserted into his nose a cotton ball sprayed with decongestant, which took a few minutes, but he was billed $1,200. There had to be an error.

It Pays to Shop Around


As soon as Tony arrived at ER he explained that he didn’t have insurance and wanted to make sure he could get a discount with a cash pay. “I’d been given discounts before on certain procedures such as when my son suffered a knee injury and he was required to get an MRI,” Tony says. “I called several facilities – shopped around first. Interestingly, one place said they don’t give discounts and the rate is $1,480. Another clinic said $600 cash and a third offered $450. I went with the latter.” Tony tried to get a discount at St. Lukes but was told the doctor will take care of the nosebleed first and a discount could be “worked out”. Thoughtful and caring, or so you’d think at the time.

“I waited in a room for 30 minutes squeezing my nose with a towel,” says Tony. “A nurse took my vitals – blood pressure and temperature – then the doctor breezed in. She shoved the cotton ball up my nose and secured it with a clip, told me ‘don’t lean back, lean forward’ and she came back 15 minutes later. Sure enough the bleeding stopped completely.”

Cash Discount for Uninsured?


A nurse discharged Tony and he proceeded to checkout. The billing department couldn’t find his charges and said he would get the bill in the mail. He was also told that the invoice would reflect a cash pay discount. Two weeks later he got the bill and immediately called ER billing.

“I said there’s a mistake, and she said, ‘I am surprised it is so low, normally the charge is higher’. I told her flat out that I was not paying $1,200 and that I would pay $200, tops,” says Tony, exasperated. “I hung up and searched online for excessive ER visits (that’s how I found LawyersandSettlements), and typed in the code—the CPT number-- to determine the cost of nosebleed treatment. The average price was $500, including the doctor’s fee.”

Tony called billing back and was told they could offer 25 percent discount on the $443 hospital portion only, not the $830 doctor’s bill. “I’ll think about it,” he said.

Next up, he phoned the doctor – the number was on the invoice, thinking maybe she didn’t realize he was paying cash. He explained that the code on the bill was an ER charge, not the code for nosebleed, therefore incorrect. Tony goes on. “She said I needed to write a letter, fill out so many forms to fax somewhere, etc. So I did that, and no follow-up. No surprise."

He called a few weeks later after another bill came in the mail -- the same amount but this time from the credit agency. Again the person in ER billing said that, because it was past due date, it automatically went to a credit agency. “So I call the credit person and explain that I am overbilled and not paying until I speak with someone who can do it correctly. ‘Well, that time has passed and it’s in our hands now,’ was the reply.

“These ER overcharges make you stay up and night fuming. I have no faith in the health community; they are money hungry and put profit before patients. It makes you wonder, what is the point of going to a doctor?

As we were leaving ER my son said, ‘You had your head tilted back the whole time? No wonder it wouldn’t stop bleeding’. And the doctor said I was likely picking my nose too much,” Tony says, laughing. At least he still has a sense of humor.

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