Pretty Grumpy in NC writes in :
I am writing this letter as a complaint about medical charges from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which I think is excessive.
I would like to point out that I got excellent care during my stay at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. I am questioning charges in total of $763.50. I received my bill for my hospital stay for surgery on June 10, 2013. I noticed a charge categorized as “Cast Room” of $763.50. I called the billing department and asked for an itemized bill.
I received the itemized bill and discovered that the “Cast Room” bill was really a daily charge of $254.50 for “Basic Frame with trapeze”. I called about this charge and learned that it was the bar above the bed attached to foot of bed to the head of the bed along with a trapeze handle. This item is used to help get up out of bed.
I think these charges are excessive.
I contacted a local home health equipment company to see what the charge would be if I rented this piece of equipment, and they told me the same item is $20 per month! This just seems unbelievable that a hospital can charge over 38000% above the price I can get this equipment for my home.
What if everyday purchases were priced and consumed like healthcare services?
These days you’d have to try hard not to know the price of a product or service before you buy it. So imagine booking an airline ticket with zero knowledge of the cost, only to return home to a bunch of outstanding bills for the trip. One statement may cover the seat rental and fuel used. Another bill may itemize each time the flight attendant handed out drinks. A few weeks later a bill for the pilot’s flying time may roll in. Can you imagine the resulting confusion, stress and angst?
I know it sounds absurd but this is the nightmare patients face every time they use the healthcare system. And it isn’t uncommon for these confusing medical bills to spiral out of control. Last year, the Commonwealth Fund (a non-profit healthcare research group) reported that 20% of US adults had medical debt or faced problems paying medical bills and only 58% of Americans felt confident they would be able to afford the care they needed.
So what options do consumers have when faced with the reality of paying for their healthcare?
A few weeks ago I parsed an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) I received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts after a visit to Sports & Physical Therapy Associates, an excellent physical therapy center with 14 locations in Greater Boston. The post (What does an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) actually explain?) generated a number of comments and questions on the Health Business Blog itself and when it was cross-posted at KevinMD. In particular:
- What would a cash paying patient be asked to pay?
- How is the $225 in “charges” derived? Is it determined by Medicare?
- Does the provider lose money on the Blue Cross contracted rate?
I’m not a billing expert so I sent an email to Sports & PT to ask them to respond directly. I was impressed with their informative and thorough response, which I am posting here with their permission.
We would be happy to provide you with some insight into how insurance claims are processed. Please find your questions with the corresponding answers below.
When a patient first comes to our clinics, we provide them our Policy Disclosure document. I think you will find it valuable in understanding the relationship between patient and provider, patient and insurance carrier, and lastly, provider and insurance carrier. Here is the first paragraph:
“Sports and Physical Therapy Associates (SPTA) is pleased to participate in your health care and we look forward to establishing a lasting relationship as your physical therapy provider. As part of this relationship, we wish to establish our expectations of your financial responsibility as outlined in our Financial Policy. Letting you know in advance of our Financial Policy allows for a good flow of communication and enables us to better satisfy you. Your medical insurance is a contract between you and your insurance company; we are not a party to that contract. We can often help with providing information about your benefits, but you are primarily responsible for knowing what type of coverage you have and for any charges that you have incurred as a patient with us. Please review and sign the following Financial Policy prior to your first visit.”