A New Jersey teacher received some serious sticker shock recently after a trip to the hospital for a relatively minor finger injury, NBC New York Reports.
Baer Hanusz-Rajkowski split open his finger last August with the claw end of a hammer. Hanusz-Rajkowski waited several days to see if the wound would close on its own, but it never did. He decided to visit the hospital to see if stitches were needed.
During his emergency room visit at Bayonne Medical Center, doctors told him stitches wouldn’t be necessary. Hanusz-Rajkowski was given a tetanus shot and his wound was cleaned and bandaged. He went home and expected to receive a relatively small bill in the mail for his visit.
When he received the bill, Hanusz-Rajkowski couldn’t believe his eyes. He was being charged $9,000 for his visit.
“I got a Band-Aid and a tetanus shot. How could it be $9,000. This is crazy,” Hanusz-Rajkowski told NBC New York. “If I severed a limb, I’d carry it to the next emergency room in the next city before I go back to this place."
Executives at Bayonne Medical Center, a for-profit hospital, tried to blame Hanusz-Rajowski’s insurance for the high bill.
“These sticker price charges only apply to ... a minority of patients whose insurance companies have refused to negotiate fair contracted prices with us,” said Bayonne Medical Center CEO Dr. Mark Spektor.
But while Spektor is quick to blame Hanusz-Rajowski’s insurance for not covering much of the patient’s bill, some reports, like this 2013 investigation by ABC, point to the egregious prices for goods and services at hospitals in the first place.
In their investigation, ABC reporters scanned a hospital's ordering catalogue and compared the cost of goods in the catalogue to what customers are charged for them. The results were troubling, even if expected.
Five bags of simple IV fluids that a woman was billed $148.50 for cost the hospital just $1.17 each. Sterile water that a patient was billed $62 for was ordered by the hospital for $1.16.
A markup is to be expected, of course. But Linda Schwimmer, vice president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality, says consumers are in the dark about what health services should reasonably cost.
Schwimmer spoke recently on what Hanusz-Rajowski should have paid for his $9,000 finger treatment.
“I can tell you the right price is somewhere between the neighborhood of $400 and $1,000," Schwimmer said. "And I know that because I’ve called around and asked, but why doesn’t everybody know that?”
To raise consumer awareness about fair and unfair care prices at hospitals, Schwimmer proposes the creation of a public database showing different service prices at different hospitals.
“If there was a list when he walked in the door saying this is going to cost you $8,200, [Hanusz-Rajowski] would have been running down the street,” Schwimmer said.
Photo: Screenshot from NBC New York's video.