Outrageous 'The $20,000 Bruise': Doctor Fights Hospital's Massive ER Charge
We've all heard about the rising cost of health care in recent years and many have experienced the effects in their daily lives. Well, the Wall Street Journal is calling attention to the problem with a piece in which a doctor-lawyer tells the story of a massive hospital bill that he received after taking his young son for a precautionary visit to the emergency room.
Here's a portion of the piece by Dr. Eric Michael David, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Organovo Inc., a biotech company in California.
As a doctor and a lawyer, I like to think I'm pretty good at navigating the health-care system. So when my wife and I found a large swollen bruise on our 3-year-old son's head more than a week after he had fallen off his scooter, I was confident we could get him a CT scan at a reasonable cost.
We live near one of the top pediatric emergency rooms in the country. The care was spectacular. My son was diagnosed with a small, 11-day-old bleed inside his head, which was healing, and insignificant.
I was proud to see the health-care system working, to see academic medicine working, and most of all to see my son run as fast as he could out of the ER two hours later.
Then the bill arrived, and you know where this is going: $20,000. Our insurance had already paid $17,000, and we owed $3,000 out-of-pocket. What for? Among the items listed on the printout was a $10,000 charge for a "trauma team activation." This made me want to give consumers some very simple tips on how to fight their health-care bills, so here goes:
1. Get yourself a job as a doctor or nurse.I've served on trauma teams in two of the busiest hospitals in New York City, and I know what a trauma-team activation looks like: doctors, nurses and residents running and yelling, IV lines, monitors. You know one when you see one. Nothing like that happened around my son. So I picked up the phone and told the hospital that the trauma charge was a mistake.
The billing agent explained that it was hospital protocol to call a trauma team when there is internal bleeding in a head injury. I argued, correctly, that it wasn't clinically indicated.
2. Have or gather the legal knowledge to know when you are being lied to. The hospital billing agent wasn't a physician and couldn't refute my clinical judgment, so she told me it was "county protocol" to call a trauma in such cases. This was a bluff, meant to get me off the phone by hiding behind regulations, a very effective tactic used by hospital administrators.
I called her bluff and said if she could show me the county regulation requiring a trauma team for an 11-day-old head injury, I'd happily pay my bill. She said she'd have the head of emergency services call me.
Stuart Varney reacted this morning on America's Newsroom, explaining that David - being a doctor himself - knew how to get through the "massive levels of bureaucracy" to have the $10,000 charge removed. The average American, however, may not have the same success.
He emphasized that the implementation of ObamaCare is not reducing the cost of health care and many of these stories will surface in the coming years. The Affordable Care Act also failed to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape involved in medical bills, he added.
Catch Varney & Co., weekdays at 11a ET on Fox Business Network.