When Frank McLaughlin cut his hand accidentally following a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the wound hurt.
But a bigger shock came when he received the bill from Lawrence & Memorial Hospital’s New London emergency room for $4,052 for 10 stitches – five temporary and five regular – coming to more than $400 a stitch.
Luckily for McLaughlin of New London, he has health insurance, and he only had to pay $65 out of his pocket. His friends told him not to get worked up since his out of pocket payment was minimal. McLaughlin said someone needed to complain about sky-high health costs, which we all have to pay for one way or another.
“I’m reminded of Government purchasing such that hammers really cost $100. … and the $600 toilet seat or the $3000 coffee maker,” he told me after getting the bills. “These numbers are just too high. I am a fiscal conservative. All these systems are too expensive, just insane far too expensive.”
McLaughlin says he received excellent care in the emergency room and his only gripe is about the incredibly high cost of health care.
And what about those who don’t have insurance, he asks?
Very good question.
Unfortunately the hospital had no response to McLaughlin’s complaint, even though they had five days.
McClaughlin said he cut his hand between his thumb and first finger when removing a zip tie used to attach a piece of wood to a banner he was carrying during the parade.
“It was deep, could not stop the bleeding,” he told me.
He went to the emergency room where his hand was wrapped so he would not bleed on the floor. He was then given five temporary stitches to stop the bleeding as he had cut a blood vessel. He was given five permanent stitches. He spent about three hours in the emergency room of which about one hour was spent on treating him.
He returned a few days later because the cut got infected.
It was then that he received his bill:
Charge of $4,052, but since his insurance company had negotiated a lower rate, the bill was reduced to $3,262 and his amount was $65 extra.
For his second visit to clear up his infection, McLaughlin was charged $380 of which was reduced by $227 because of the negotiated rate, and he again had to pay $65.
There will of course be an additional charge when he has the five permanent stitches removed.
Now someone without insurance would have had to pay the complete bills of $4,052 and $380, since there are no negotiated rates for the non-insured.
This is not just at Lawrence & Memorial, it happens with every hospital, clinic, psychologist, drug store, and dentist that accepts insurance.
The difference between the negotiated insurance rates and what the non-insurance patients pay can be huge, much larger than in this case.
What happens is that the health system tries to make the non-insured pay the difference between what the real charges the health professionals want and the amount that insurance companies are willing to pay.
It is no wonder that most people who are in bankruptcy court are there not because they charged too many toys on their credit cards, it’s because they got whacked by huge medical bills they could not afford. If you can’t afford insurance, you probably can’t afford full-priced health care.
“It’s just not fair,” McLaughlin said and I agree.
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