A Missouri man says his family received an emergency room bill for more than $1,000 — even though a doctor never even saw his son.
Dhaval Bhatt says his wife and toddler waited to see a doctor at the hospital for over an hour. They eventually left without being seen.
"I had heard stories from my friends that unless literally like you're dying or in a very serious condition, only then you should visit an ER," Bhatt said.
Bhatt, an immigrant from India, always avoided hospitals in the U.S. because he feared large medical bills. But when his 2-year-old son burned his hand on the stove in April, Bhatt's wife, Mansi, called their pediatrician, who told them to go to the hospital.
"I was very much worried," she said. "The blisters came on his hand. So at that time, I really panicked."
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital coded the burn as a level 3 — a moderately severe problem. Mansi said a nurse took her son's vitals, looked at his wound, and said a surgeon would look at it more closely. But after waiting more than an hour, they decided to leave without seeing a doctor.
"It was so annoying and frustrating," she said. "I was just thinking, why isn't someone coming to take a look at my son if his wound is so severe?"
Their son's hand healed on its own after a few days, and then the hospital bill arrived. It was for $1,012 and Bhatt owed more than $850 after insurance adjustments, he said. Almost all of the bill was the "facility fee" — something hospitals can charge anyone who walks in and registers even if they aren't treated.
"I was very astonished to see that it's such a crazy bill ... when nothing was done to my son," Bhatt said.
After contacting the hospital several times to fix the issue, his bill was sent to collections. He says facility fees don't exist in India and the concept of them still doesn't make sense to him.
"If you compare it to just walking to the grocery store, you don't get charged for just entering the room or place. Like, if you don't get any services, you don't pay," he said.
Bhatt also filed a complaint with his insurance company and the Missouri Department of Health, with no luck.
The hospital did eventually waive the facility fee in November after a Kaiser Health news reporter got involved. Bhatt's bill was then lowered to $38 — the cost for seeing the nurse.
In a statement, the hospital said the patient was treated by a nurse practitioner supervisor for a burn and referred for follow-up care. The hospital also said that the charge was appropriate based on factors, including a traumatic wound assessment, adding it posts information about pricing online and at its care sites.
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