My Insane Medical Bill: $5,150 for 2 Stitches a Tetanus Shot and an X Ray

The prolonged, immensely painful 2010 health care debate was for me, a conceptual one. I had no personal experience of American health care other than a visit to the ER with a friend who had hit his head. I read the horror stories, watched Michael Moore's heart breaking 'Sicko' documentary, and listened to friends who had been screwed out of thousands of dollars by insurance companies and greedy hospitals.

But today, I had my very own American health care experience.

Some background: I was followed back to my car a couple of weeks ago by a thug looking for a fight in Hollywood. I tried my best to placate him, offered my hand to shake and even apologized to him so that he would leave. I literally tried everything to avoid a physical confrontation, but he would not be dissuaded. Luckily, I've spent many many years in boxing and various Martial Arts, so was able to to escape the situation without serious harm to myself (he wasn't quite as fortunate). However, I sustained a bit of a nasty cut on my eyebrow, and my hands were extremely swollen. I drove myself down to Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and waited a few hours to get treated. I had an X ray done of my hands, had a tetanus shot and 2 stitches in my eyebrow. I paid a $100 co-pay at the hospital and left pretty satisfied with the care I received (although in the UK, I would have paid absolutely nothing).

Anyhow, a bill arrived this morning from the hospital for $2063 (minus the $100 co-pay). My insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross, is paying precisely nothing towards it, because I have a $5000 deductible.

I rang the hospital to ask them about the bill, and they told me that the original bill was in fact $5150.02, and I had received a $2,987 'hospital discount'. I asked them to break down the bill and they told me the following:

X rays: $1644.50

Medical/Surgical supplies: $1153.43

Emergency Room General Classification: $2224.41

Preventative Care Services: $127.68

Apparently, because of the fact that I needed X Rays done, it put my general classifcation up to a '3' out of a possible 6 (the higher your classification, the more you pay). So essentially, I paid $2224.41 because I needed X Rays, then paid another $1644.50 to have them actually done.

I'm not sure who to be angry with – the insurance company that I pay thousands of dollars a year to, or the hospital for charging outrageous and completely meaningless fees.

Don't get me wrong, Cedars Sinai is by all accounts a great hospital with wonderful staff and doctors, but how it expects the average person to fork out thousands of dollars for extremely basic medical care is beyond me.

I'm going to fight the bill because it is ridiculous – no one should have to pay that kind of money out of pocket for any type of necessary medical care.

I'll keep you posted on the outcome.

  • kahunabear

    I had three steri strips put on a cut to close it up. No rooms were available so they did it in the hallway. Total bill just under $1800. Took all of 10 minutes. Ugh.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/trainersroom Room4rrainers

    I saw this interesting article. I am glad to know that you can whoop someone’s ass if they desperately need it. I was also asked if I had been given a tetanus shot before. But they didn’t ask my name or demanded to see my passport or any papers at all. it was so use full any time.
    Kinesiology Tape

  • http://profile.typepad.com/cam16420 Cam16420

    Here’s a tale of two cities. It was Tokyo in 1986. As I was due to be transferred to London soon, I was going through a number of farewell do’s; some wilder than the others. On one of those drink-a-thons in Roppongi I fell and suffered a cut on my head. The cut wasn’t deep and as I was already anaesthesized by drinks I didn’t feel the pain, but I was bleeding profusely. Nevertheless I managed to walk to the nearest hospital and received several stitches and a tetanus shot.
    I was covered by the corporate health care insurance at the time, but I didn’t have the insurance card on me on that night. So the hospital charged me the full whack. I very well remember the price because at the time I thought it was extortionate: Yen 20,000 or 250 bucks in today’s exchange rate.
    London early 1990′s. It was around mid-night and I was in a cab going home from the usual round of pub crawling. Suddenly an oncoming car swerved in front of the cab, which slammed into it. I was unconscious for a few minutes, but woke up to find cuts on my eyelid and on the chin. Ambulance came very quickly and I was whisked to a nearly hospital. I was on the operating table and given several stitches; I was also asked if I had been given a tetanus shot before. But they didn’t ask my name or demanded to see my passport (I was obviouly a non-Brit) or any papers at all.
    In an hour or so I was well enough to go home, and asked for the bill. They said it’s free. I think I did a double-take and asked again. Nada, zilch, nothing. I was astonished.
    As I felt bad about getting all this treatment off British taxpayers’ money, a few days later I offered to donate some money to the hospital’s favorite charity, which was accepted.
    NHS is not without its problems. Personally I think they should charge people like me who can afford to pay. But I think there is much to admire in the moral beauty of a system that treats the injured – no question asked, no money charged. After all, isn’t this the Christian ideal? (Caveat: I am not a Christian.)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/osborneink1 OsborneInk

    1) I am glad to know that you can whoop someone’s ass if they desperately need it. Me, I have a CCW permit so I’d’ve prolly just shot him once or twice with a .38 police special.
    2) Now that you’ve seen how the health care system works — you pay the insurance company, they pay nothing, and the hospital overcharges the crap out of you — does it help you understand why so many people were upset about their health care, but fell prey to easy answers?