Snakebite Victim Charged $89,000 For A Four-Vial Dose Of Medication And Only 18-Hour Hospital Stay (The Same Vials Can Be Found Online For As Low As $750!)

Snakebite victim charged $89,000 for 18-hour hospital stay (Yahoo News, Jan 28, 2014):

A snakebite victim who was treated at a North Carolina hospital came away with more than just fang marks when he received an $89,227 bill for an 18-hour stay.

Eric Ferguson, 54, from Mooresville, N.C., was taking out the trash at his home last August when he was bitten on the foot by a snake. He drove himself to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, where he was treated with anti-venom medicine.

According to his bill, the hospital charged $81,000 for a four-vial dose of the medication.

Shocked at the price tag, Ferguson told the Charlotte Observer he and his wife found the same vials online for retail prices as low as $750.

Ferguson, who is insured, said his care was “beyond phenomenal.”

“It was just the sticker shock,” he said.

Because the hospital has a contract with Ferguson’s insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, it reduced the total bill to $20,227. According to the Observer, the couple paid $5,400 out of pocket to cover their deductible and co-pay.

The hospital defended its prices, saying it has to charge prices higher than retail because of the various discounts it is required to give insurers.

“We are required to give Medicare one level of discount from list price, Medicaid another, and private insurers negotiate for still others,” officials told the newspaper. “If we did not start with the list prices we have, we would not end up with enough revenue to remain in operation.”

The hospital added: “Our costs for providing uncompensated care are partially covered by higher bills for other patients.”

The Fergusons’ case is, of course, not unique. A 2013 cover story by Steven Brill in Time magazine (“Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us“) detailed the “outrageous pricing and egregious profits” destroying the U.S. health care system, noting that Americans were expected to spend an estimated $2.8 trillion on health care last year.

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