During our Las Vegas vacation I had a health scare when I swallowed a piece of meat down the wrong tube. In trying to cough it up I got bronchitis, but before that diagnosis I was concerned I was choking. The urgent care doctor refused to do anything (after charging me $100 to refer me to the Spring Valley Hospital ER!) because he was concerned about the severity of my symptoms. I went to the Emergency Room and sat in a room for three hours. A nurse took my blood, a technician performed a chest X-Ray, and my vital signs were monitored. The cost of those services was nearly $5,000 (that's not a typo!), but after the insurance benefit, I was responsible for almost $3,000. Since I have a high-deductible plan, the only benefit of having insurance in a case like this is that I pay a lower rate that the insurer has negotiated. I am responsible for 100% of the bill until my medical costs exceed $6,500 in a calendar year.
After receiving the first of three bills, my initial thought was that an error had been made. No one pays $5,000 for bloodwork and a single X-ray, do they? I called the hospital's billing department. One trick they use to discourage you is make you wait on hold. It was 40 minutes before I spoke with a live person, and every 20 seconds I was encouraged by a recorded voice to make payment online or through the automated system. When I finally spoke with someone, I felt like I was talking to a brick wall. The employee was not helpful at all, insisting that my bill was accurate and that they absolutely do no discounting. She did offer me a convenient payment plan, but she missed the point that I thought they were ripping me off.
Yes, I said it. The Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas ripped me off. But rather than accept this nonsense, I did some research online. I called in reinforcements in the form of a medical bill negotiator (I used My Medical Negotiator, but there are a couple of options out there). It took some time, but the person I worked with, Dennis Dobecki, was able to negotiate a 30% discount. That's not a huge amount, but it saved me $400 on the ER bill.
I also submitted the bill I received from the doctor who "cared" for me. I saw him for about three minutes, and he never laid a finger on me. Those three minutes were billed at $1,481. I haven't paid it yet, but am crossing my fingers that My Medical Negotiator can work some magic on it, too.