Here is a story we picked up from Vox, which is doing some great work on reporting on high and unreasonable medical bills that patients get hit with, especially when they end up in the emergency room (ER)!
Sarah Kliff reported on this story. This is what happened to Jessica Pell in Oct 2016. She fainted and hit her head on a table and cut her ear. She went to the ER at Hoboken University Medical Center, where she was given a relatively simple "treatment" - an ice pack!
No other treatment or diagnosis. A few weeks later, Jessica gets a bill of $5751! For an ice-pack?
As per Vox, Jessica's experience is not unique as many patients have reported to Vox.
What can you do?
1) Avoid going to the ER, if you have any choice in the matter. Urgent care clinics usually have doctors and equipment to handle most situations. Get a list of nearby Urgent care clinics and find out more about their specialties and facilities.
2) Make sure you document every experience and consultation. Or have your family member do this. Do not sign any document unless you are clear about the costs for the treatment that you are going to get.
3) If you have to go the ER due to life-threatening situations, find out the ERs that are included in the network for your health plans. While this may not be practical in all cases, you can do the research upfront if you are under treatment for chronic conditions which might result in needing to be taken to the ER.
How to research for Hospitals & Facilities:
1. You can have a look at US News & World Report's Best Hospital rankings, which rely on reputation with the medical community and a set of clear metrics.
2. Use the nonprofit Leapfrog Group's grades. They grade the hospitals from a scale of A (very good) to D. If the hospital gets a score of C or D, you might want to avoid them!
3. Medicare has an online Hospital Compare database which provides data on 3600+ hospitals that take Medicare programs. You will find measures of how care was delivered in a timely and effective manner, whether the hospital stay resulted in complications or not, whether patients received state of the art treatment or not, for example. There is information on the following:
Survey of patients' experiences
Timely & effective care
Readmissions & deaths
Use of medical imaging
Payment & value of care
That can be very useful! Research if you can and learn from other's painful experiences!