Daily Dose of Outrage: An $83,046 Hospital Bill—for a Scorpion Sting

By Lauren Gelman

Daily Dose of Outrage: An $83,046 Hospital Bill—for a Scorpion Sting
Straight from the files of “what’s wrong with our health care system” comes this gem: An Arizona woman was recently billed $83,046 dollars for treatment that included two doses of an antivenom medication to treat a scorpion sting (her insurance company paid most of it, but she still owed more than $25,000).

According to this USA TODAY article, a distributor for the drug Anascorp, which was approved by the FDA last year, charges hospitals $3,780 per dose.

The hospital, which reportedly charged the patient $39,652 per dose, has said it will adjust the bill and review its price for the drug.

The story immediately calls to mind many of the issues uncovered by our reporter in a recent special report on why hospital bills cost what they cost. Because hospital pricing is so complex and variable—in one example, the range between the highest and lowest charge for hospital admissions for appendicitis within San Francisco alone was nearly $172,000!—it’s important to be a proactive patient and do your homework to avoid being over-billed.

Among the tips we share in the piece, which is truly a must-read:

1. Shop around and compare prices in advance.

2. Find out a procedure’s billing code (ask your doctor’s billing department for the CPT code)  for more accurate research and to help question billing errors that may be related to coding.

3. Maintain a log at the hospital of procedures, tests, and medications so you can make sure you’re not overcharged.

4. Get an itemized bill (it’s much, much more detailed than a basic bill).

5. Make sure all the doctors you see are in your insurance network. In hospitals, it can be common for radiologists, anesthesiologists, pathologists, and ER doctors to be out of network even if the hospital itself is in.

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