Patients take frustrating, labyrinthine journey to uncover hospital costs
- Walter Simonds went to the emergency room on a Saturday night in February with a stabbing pain in his right side. After two hours at Seton Medical Center Austin, Simonds learned he had a large kidney stone.Seton billed Simonds, a self-employed writer who is uninsured because of the high cost of individual coverage, $8,716 for the 128 minutes he said he spent mostly waiting in the ER. That works out to about $68 a minute and does not include the $887 Simonds had to pay the ER doctor or the $330 he paid a radiologist to read his $7,200 CT scan â€” about double the cost of a CT scan at St. David's Medical Center, according to the charge-comparison website NewChoiceHealth.com.It would end up costing him $7,562 more for a procedure to crush the stone someplace else â€” an amount Simonds said he "happily paid."But his outrage over his ER bill took him on one of the most high-blood-pressure-inducing journeys a patient can take: trying to understand hospital costs.As state and federal leaders call for curbs on rising health care costs and as more consumers pay higher co-pays and deductibles, experts advise patients to find out their costs before seeking care. "The real cost of health care is one of the best-kept secrets in America," said Lisa McGiffert, a senior health policy analyst at Consumers Union.
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