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“I’d Rather Pay an Attorney Than the Hospital for ER Overcharges”

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Seattle, WANot only were Steve and his wife charged “ludicrous” emergency room overcharges, Steve says that the hospital flat-out lied about the treatment, or non-treatment, on their invoice. And not all patients are treated equal, as Nancy attests.

“I took my wife to ER for back pain - she gets spinal injections regularly from her doctor but he wasn’t available,” Steve explains. “Before she was even seen by a doctor, they asked us to sign a form agreeing to charges totaling $2,120 and our insurance would cover 80 percent of the cost. We had no choice, she was in agony.”

Steve says his wife was eventually taken into an examining room where she was given an injection. She was gone for no more than 15 minutes. A month later, they were mailed an invoice totaling almost $4,000. On it was itemized 45 minutes in the procedure room with a doctor.

“After two months of going back and forth trying to negotiate this bill, after endless phone calls, the hospital finally agreed to shave off 15 minutes in the room,” says Steve, exasperated. “They are still lying about the time my wife spent with the doctor; it only takes a few minutes to administer the injection. And to make it worse, the injection wasn’t the same med she is used to so it only worked for a short time. Even though our insurance company is picking up most of the tab, the hospital shouldn’t be allowed to bill these inflated emergency room charges, no matter who is paying in the end. I would rather pay an attorney to negotiate a reasonable amount than pay the hospital.”

Last year Nancy went to the emergency room complaining of dizzy spells. They decided to keep her overnight for observation. “I was there for 12 hours. They gave me a stress test on a treadmill, took my blood and urine, hooked me up to an IV drip and gave me one sleeping pill,” says Nancy. “A nurse also tried to give me some pepcid AC. I asked what it was for and he said it was for acid stomach that is given to all patients whether they need it or not! I didn’t have any stomach problems but I certainly got them when I read my bill.”

The hospital called her at home the next day - turns out she had a urinary tract infection. Nancy got the bill a few weeks later, which included the pepcid AC, for a total of $42,000. Nancy is uninsured but the hospital told her that she qualifies for financial assistance. After filling out countless forms and trying to fathom all the items charged, Nancy is still on the hook for more than half. Her account has now gone to a collection agency. “My credit is in the toilet and I don’t know where to turn,” she says. “This is a very expensive lesson - you pretty much have to be on your deathbed before going to emergency if you aren’t insured. I can’t understand why hospitals can bankrupt you and get away with it.”

Hospitals are not getting away with it. Attorneys are helping people who believe they have been overcharged by negotiating their ER overcharges with the hospital. And they are getting results.

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