in_greed_we_trustKudos to CNN reporter Elizabeth Cohen for reporting on hospital waste; the “open” secret has now been revealed.  See Healthcare Industry Sick With Medical Waste. Physicians and nurses have known about inflated hospital charges for years and now the public does too. As Cohen reported about $1,000 toothbrushes and $121 pacifiers I thought about my own horror story.  Physicians aren’t exempt from illness and in 2008 I developed an acute eye condition that threatened my vision. At the recommendation of my optometrist, I saw a retinal specialist who admitted me to a local hospital for a same day procedure. In retrospect, I regret both having the procedure (that failed) and being admitted to an institution that provided less than exemplary customer service and gave me a over inflated bill.

As a physician, I know exactly what medication costs and was incensed when I received my $13,000 hospital bill. Charges of $181.00 for a $4.00 generic drug, implausible costs for intravenous medications and “Star- Wars-type” surgical tools made me see red.  I challenged the outrageous bill but to no avail. I went through layers of billing clerks who were both rude and useless; and spoke with a hospital auditor who defended the charges. I complained vehemently to my insurance company, advising them that they were being duped but they paid their portion and never investigated my complaints. I ultimately paid my portion of the bill but felt like I had been extorted by the Mafia. In retrospect, here’s what I wish I had done:

  • Requested an estimate of hospital charges BEFORE I was admitted
  • Wrote a letter of complaint to my state’s Insurance Commissioner; and
  • Consulted the services of a medical billing advocate

Most pregnant women will give birth either in a hospital or birthing center so it behooves you to be as pro-active as possible regarding scrutinizing your bill. Healthcare has become a business. Make sure you’re an educated consumer.