June 8, 2015

Hospitals in California are Price Gouging for Services

In February of 2015, Laurie Leigh's father was in the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California. 

The Good Samaritan hospital in L.A. is described as a private, not-for-profit, 408 bed facility. 

Laurie's father was on life support.  He was taken off of life support and sadly passed away. 

While at the hospital, his daughter, Laurie, age 57, was overcome with emotion and fainted. She was wheeled into the Good Samaritan's emergency room. Her blood pressure was a bit high.  She was given a Lorazepam pill which is an anti-anxiety medication.  She lay on a bed for an hour and a half until she had calmed down enough to get herself together and to leave the hospital. 

She received a medical bill for $1,900.  This was for:

A routine blood pressure test
One lorazepam pill (retail cost under 50 cents per pill)
One and one half hours taking up bed space

The family had received a medical bill of over $100,000. for the father's medical care. 

Laurie's insurer, Blue Shield of California, covered only $200. of her emergency room bill, leaving her with a $1,700. balance. 

A Good Samaritan spokesperson has stated that a $1,700. emergency room charge is consistent with hospital charges in the area. 

In another case, in June of 2014, Charlene Eiseman took her 15 year old daughter to an emergency room at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California. The daughter had severe stomach pain. Blood tests and an ultrasound were conducted, then a CAT scan. The tests revealed nothing conclusive. Pain medication was administered and the daughter was sent home.

Charlene received a medical bill of just under $17,000. for this. Her insurer covered about $12,000. of this cost and the family was left with a $5,000. bill. 

This hospital states that prices for services are based on local market averages.

All hospitals have to pay salaries, buy medical supplies, maintain buildings, provide food services, and pay utilities. They have many other hidden expenses. 

However, medical bills such as the two outlined above do not reflect the actual expenses incurred for the treatment and help received by any individual patient. 

Consumer advocates in California state that hospitals there charge as much as they think they can get away with.  Most U.S. State governments do not regulate hospital prices, which they should be doing. 

It's time for state governments to start imposing charge limits on hospital fees with a view to making them reasonably affordable to the average citizen. 

God save us from corporate greed. Amen. 

No comments: