How could one family end up with a doctor’s bill for $1,000 without ever seeing a doctor?
Dhaval Bhatt, an Indian immigrant to Missouri, claims he avoided American hospitals to avoid expensive medical bills. But he couldn’t anymore after his 2-year-old son burned his hand on the stove in April.
Dhaval says his wife, Mansi, called their pediatrician, who told them to go to the ER.
“I was very much worried,”Mansi said. “The blisters came on his hand. So at that time, I really panicked.”
The hospital coded it as a level 3 — a moderately severe injury. Mansi reports that her son was taken by a nurse who examined the wound and advised that a surgeon would be able to examine it further.
They decided to leave after waiting more than an hour.
“It was so annoying and frustrating,”Dhaval spoke. “I was just thinking, why isn’t someone coming to take a look at my son if his wound is so severe?”
Their son’s hand began to heal on its own after a few days. Then, $1,012 was due at the hospital. Bhatt owed more than $850 after making insurance adjustments.
Reporter suggested that he request an itemized bill in order to get the breakdown of all charges. Most of the bill was a for a “facility fee” — something hospitals can charge anyone who walks in and registers even if they don’t get treated.
“I was very astonished to see that it’s such a crazy bill when nothing was done to my son,”Dhavul shared his thoughts.
After several attempts to resolve the problem, Dhaval was sent his bill to collections. Dhaval says facility fees don’t exist in India, and the concept of them still doesn’t make sense to him.
“If you compare it to just walking to the grocery store,”He said, “you don’t get charged for just entering the room or place. Like, if you don’t get any services, you don’t pay.”
After Kaiser Health News’ involvement, the hospital waived the facility fee in November. Bhatt’s bill was reduced to $38.92 for the cost of seeing the nurse.
The hospital stated in a statement that the cost was justified due to the care provided by a nurse practitioner supervisor.
Experts advise that patients should request an itemized bill to avoid any headaches while visiting the ER. And if someone thinks their visit has been up-coded, they should complain. Because they know how much treatment was received. Insurance companies don’t.
They recommend that minor problems be treated at a clinic, or to a doctor.