Rothanie, age 28, moved to the US from Cambodia seven years ago; she is now a US citizen. Most people immigrating to the US encounter unfamiliar circumstances and unforeseen expenses, but it is doubtful that new immigrants are prepared and warned of hospital overcharges.
“My mum had this same surgery in Cambodia and it cost $400. She was in a high-end private hospital and they treat you like royalty,” says Rothanie, who has a great job but is now struggling with the possibility of bankruptcy.
“After a short time in the emergency room I had a CT Scan and was admitted that night,” says Rothanie. “Right away a lady from administration asked if I had insurance. I don’t have health insurance so she said I had to pay a $2,000 deposit. I was in so much pain that I left home without my credit card - I got to ER in my pajamas with only enough cash to take a taxi home.”
Rothanie was expecting to be charged about $10,000. About a month after surgery she received five hospital bills in the mail. The first bill totaled $53,000 and included the following:
ER bed (she was there less than one hour): $2,059
CT Scan: $4,216.00
Hospital bed: $2,300
Pharmacy (IV solution): $175
Medical surgical supplies: $398
Sterile supplies: $10
Supply implant: $588
Lab chemistry: $2,100
Lab immunology: $101
Drugs and detail code (she refused pain meds and didn’t take any drugs home): $1,925
Recovery room (she was in there for a few hours): $4,000
All other services: $21,000
The other four bills total more than $10,000 including “surgery upper abdomen.”
Rothanie phoned hospital administration. They asked how much she could afford. “I asked about these exorbitant charges and if anything could be done,” says Rothanie. “The admin lady said she would talk to her manager. I asked to speak with this manager, to no avail. She called me back a week later and said no one above her was available but they could offer me a discount: my charges would now total $39,762.00.
The hospital kept hounding me for payments. My friends and co-workers and even the admin lady advised me to write a check each month for $5. I sent the first check last November. They cashed the checks but now I have a negative credit report - it didn’t matter if I paid anything. At this point I don’t know what can be done. There is no use in writing any checks to them because they are now suing me and I cannot pay any more money for a two-night stay in their hospital.”
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Rothanie pays $283 per month to Humana, her insurance company, but this hospital wouldn’t accept it. “They said it is their policy to only accept Blue Cross and Blue Shield,” she adds. “I was not in a position to check out the cost of rooms like I would a hotel! Turns out a hospital bed costs more than the most expensive NY penthouse. And room service only brought me liquids.
“I want people to be aware that these hospital charges can destroy your future.” Before you wind up in ER, it might be a good idea to shop around - find out which hospital will accept your health insurance. And if you are stuck with ER overcharges, an attorney can help negotiate. Failing that, ER overcharges lawsuits are being filed.