A Mooresville, N.C., man was shocked when an 18-hour emergency room visit to treat a snake bite landed him with an $89,227 bill. He was even more surprised when he found the antivenom he was charged about $20,000 per dose for at the hospital was selling for significantly less online.
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The Charlotte Observer reported the incident happened in August last year, but Eric Ferguson and his wife are speaking out now, advocating for more transparency on the part of the medical system and advising patients to be their "own health ambassador.”
Ferguson was taking out the trash one evening last year when he thought it felt like he was stung by a bee. When he later saw two fang marks, he drove himself to the emergency room. At Lake Norman Regional, Ferguson received four vials of antivenom for a poisonous snake bite.
While he told the newspaper the care he received was “beyond phenomenal," the "sticker shock" even after their insurance was factored in, reducing his bill to $20,227, has him saying he was overcharged.
Online, the Fergusons found the antivenom he received retailed for $750 to $12,000 per vial.
“What if it was someone that didn’t have the resources to research and didn’t have insurance?” Ferguson's wife, Laura, told the Charlotte Observer. “What is fair and equitable here?”
This is by no means the first time a snake bite victim has seen what they consider to be an exorbitant hospital bill for treatment. Last year, a Maryland woman was charged $55,000 after being bitten by a copperhead, $40,000 of which was for the antivenom.
The newspaper thought noted that Lake Norman Regional and another local hospital are already under investigation for possibly conducting unnecessary tests.
Lake Norman explained the high cost of Ferguson's treatment to the Charlotte Observer in a statement:
“… Hospitals only collect a small percentage of our charges, or ‘list prices.’ We are required to give Medicare one level of discount from list price, Medicaid another, and private insurers negotiate for still others. … If we did not start with the list prices we have, we would not end up with enough revenue to remain in operation. … Our costs for providing uncompensated care are partially covered by higher bills for other patients.
“In some cases, Lake Norman Regional’s charge is considerably higher than other local hospitals,” the statement said. But the hospital said it offers discounts of 62 to 65 percent to “self-pay” patients without insurance.
Overall, Laura Ferguson told the Charlotte Observer she thinks medical centers should be more upfront about costs and that patients “need to be your own health ambassador.”
(H/T: Yahoo News)