By Maya Rhodan
January 19, 2014
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

A couple in North Carolina is speaking out against hospital pricing after receiving a bill for an 18-hour emergency-room stay which they say cost them a whopping $89,000. The Charlotte Observer reports that Eric Ferguson visited a hospital near his home in Mooresville, N.C. over the summer after being bitten by a snake.

The four vials of anti-venom medication Ferguson received reportedly cost about $20,000 each. Ferguson and his wife Laura researched the price of the medicine and found its retail price was between $750 and $12,000 per vial. Medicare, they reportedly found, would have paid about $9,460 for the total treatment

Though their Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance reduced the bill to a little over $20,000, according to the Charlotte Observer, and they only ended up paying about $5,400 to cover their deductible and co-pay, the couple said they were shocked by the price of treatment.

In a 2013 cover story by Steven Brill, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, TIME explored the often exorbitant prices patients face after hospital stays.The article examined the reasons behind the prices and the damage caused to those on the receiving end of the American health care system as a result

The hospital, Lake Norman Regional, defended their pricing in a statement to the newspaper: “Hospitals only collect a small percentage of our charges, or ‘list prices.’ We are required to give Medicare one level of discount from list price, Medicaid another, and private insurers negotiate for still others. … If we did not start with the list prices we have, we would not end up with enough revenue to remain in operation. … Our costs for providing uncompensated care are partially covered by higher bills for other patients.”

[Charlotte Observer]

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