Patients Struggle to Navigate Maze of Hospital Costs

AUSTIN – Walter Simonds went to the emergency room on a Saturday night in February with a stabbing pain in his right side. After two hours at Seton Medical Center Austin, Simonds learned he had a large kidney stone.

Seton billed Simonds, a self-employed writer who is uninsured because of the high cost of individual coverage, $8,716 for the 128 minutes he said he spent mostly waiting in the ER. That works out to about $68 a minute and does not include the $887 Simonds had to pay the ER doctor or the $330 he paid a radiologist to read his $7,200 CT scan – about double the cost of a CT scan at St. David’s Medical Center, according to the charge-comparison website NewChoiceHealth.com.

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Patients in the Dark on Medical Costs, Study Finds

VIDEO: Americans pay high costs for routine procedures despite insurance coverage.

In the middle of the night, Augustin Hong, a 34-year-old financial professional living in San Francisco, started to experience abdominal pain so severe it sent him to the emergency room. After some tests, doctors told him he had appendicitis and needed surgery — and that without surgery he could die.

He took his doctor’s advice without hesitation. The routine surgery to remove his inflamed appendix went off without a hitch, and doctors sent him home the day after his surgery with a small bottle of pain pills — and a medical bill of nearly $60,000.

At first, the large bill didn’t faze him.
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