Monday, January 4, 2021

ER billing "fun"

Content warning for blood and medical issues.

During the weekend just prior to Thanksgiving, I had the worst nosebleed of my life and went to the ER to try to get it stopped. It looked at first like their efforts worked, although my sinuses felt alarmingly sloshy when I left. Unfortunately, minutes after getting home, the bleeding started up again, just as bad as before, so I went back to the ER. Several hours and some vomited blood later, they finally packed my nostril and I was actually able to go home and get some rest.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the bill from the ER arrived. It was more than I'd have liked to pay but at least less than my rent, and the itemized version I hunted down (or thought I hunted down) made it look like it covered both visits. Just this past weekend, I unexpectedly got yet another bill. After some checking, it seemed like it was the physician's bill (which is apparently separate from the ER bill, because US medical billing is awful).

I decided to make a few phone calls to my insurance and the ER just to double check things, though, and it turns out it's even worse than I thought. Those first two bills were just for the first ER visit. There are another two claims for the second ER visit that insurance has currently denied - the ER has sent them stuff to convince them that, yes, it's a second visit and they didn't mistakenly send two claims for one visit.

So I can definitely expect another couple bills, and there's currently no way to know if they'll be approximately the same as what I've already been billed, or more. Either way, it's looking like I'd owe a lot less if I had just refused to leave that first time until I was sure the sloshy sensation wasn't going to get worse (it literally took only 20 minutes for the bleeding to start right back up again).

At this point I'm thinking that anyone who's against moving the US to a single payer healthcare system has never had to deal with this kind of thing. And also that anyone who blows off COVID-19 as no big deal hasn't considered that if they end up in the ER, they'll probably have medical debt for the rest of their life (you know, assuming they don't die - but I guess if they die it'll be their family on the hook for the debt). A simple nosebleed is going to cost me at least half a month's paycheck, if not more, so I can only imagine what a hospital stay for COVID-19 must cost.


  1. Yes, this is particularly a problem in our smaller towns, where the emergency room doctor in particular is out-of-network with insurance. It has to do with staffing issues. Hospitals in smaller towns can't attract a large enough emergency room staff, so they contract with various emergency room physicians groups, which are almost always out-of-network. I'm so sorry you had such a bad nosebleed!

    1. It could be worse, I suppose - I can afford to pay the bills (although I'm still waiting to find out how high the last couple are), and it looks like the cause of the problem has been taken care of.