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FRESH BAKES

Hospital charges $629 for band-aid: American ER system remains more questionable than ever

May 18, 2016

Cause of death? Balance overdue. 

What can you do with $630? Take a tour around your neighborhood Best Buy and you’ll quickly find out that six Franklins can make you a very happy person. 60 inch TV, a video game console with multiple blue ray CDs to keep you nice and plump on your couch, a decent DSLR to give you the too-cool-for-snapchat hipster look or perhaps even a couple courses to help jump start your life in a local community college. But one hospital in Connecticut tells us that all $629 will get you is a top-of-the-line band-aid placed kindly on your finger, courtesy of the meticulous surgical hands of a staff doctor. They’ll throw in some complimentary tap-water for your business as well.


Malcolm Bird visited the emergency room of a local hospital in Danbury, Connecticut when his wife accidentally cut their daughter Collette’s pinky finger while trimming her nails. There was some blood(we’re not talking Texas Chainsaw Massacre here), so these first-time parents sought a doctor’s opinion. Turns out Collette didn’t need the help of a medical team as after a 20 minute wait with a nurse, the doctor proceeded to A) run her finger under tap water, B) peeled a fresh band-aid and C) placed this aforementioned band-aid over her minuscule laceration. Now here comes the real clinical disaster. When Malcolm received the hospital bills, the total sum of the ER services was a whopping $629.


To say Malcolm was bemused would be the understatement of the century. Bird proceeded to inquire about this excessive charge(even $62 seems a bit over the top for a band-aid that costs $2 per dozen in any retailer) directly to the hospital. The returned response was that the prices were “justified” and that his unpaid bills will be turned over to a debt collection agency. Bird’s insurance provider managed to negotiate prices down to $440, but we’re not talking about a designer-made, gold-plated Hermes band-aid here. The hospital didn’t even have the decency to use Evian to wash out Collette’s finger.


John Murphy, CEO of the Western Connecticut Health Network wrote back to Bird, explaining that the majority of the costs stemmed from seeing the doctor and using the ER itself. So the astronomical prices are what we call a “facility fee”, which is “associated with the use of the faculty and staff” who are on stand-by “24-hours a day, every day of the year, and stand ready to treat whoever walks through the door, be it a gunshot victim or a patient with a stroke.” The controversial “facility fee” leers its belligerent and arbitrary head yet again and no matter how herculean our efforts are to slay the beast, it keeps nipping at the heels of the nation’s most needing patients that are discouraged from ever stepping foot into a hospital.
 

The thing about facility fees are that there are no exact formulas that elucidate how much a hospital will charge an ER patient. Hospitals tend to avoid publicly posting their ER ratings and the most ludicrous fact of all is that most do not differentiate facility fee charges depending on the procedures a patient has received. This means that Collette may be charged the same facility fee as a gun-shot victim. Reflecting on this disturbing reality, Renee Hsia of UCSF says that the ER bills for common procedures(cuts, fevers, routine frat-party related incidents) may range from as little as $15 to as much as $17,797 depending on the given hospital’s facility fees.
 

Such is the reality of the American medical system. With a whopping two-thirds of individuals who file for bankruptcy in the US doing so due to medical bills, it seems that something must be done soon. Will the Scandinavian system of free medical care fit America? No. This is a nation that suffers from a mass pandemic of taxation-allergies. Thankfully Bird was relieved of his dues when he requested contact information for the general counsel of the Connecticut hospital. Most are not so lucky. Until this ludicrousness is remedied, I’m going to wear a “DON’T CALL THE AMBULANCE” shirt every time I feel fainty during the day. 

 

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