Tuesday, March 23, 2010

what a few stitches cost

Did you know a trip to the emergency room for stitches costs 700 dollars?

I got the bill for Starflower's recent incident the other day, and it nearly blew my mind. I knew we were talking at least a couple hundred bucks, but wow.

I was grateful for the bottom line: "Expected insurance coverage = 100%", although I knew better. We have not met our deductible for the year, so we will have to pay about $150. Still, I am more fortunate than a lot of folks in that my job provides health insurance.

While I think a lot needs to be done in the way of cost containment, personal responsibility, and defining why it is that people need to be on so many prescription medications anyway, I am glad this nation has finally taken a big step towards providing affordable health care for most, and guaranteeing that those who need it most will not lose it. After all, stitches happen, despite our best efforts at prevention. Although maybe next time I'll do them myself! (Taking them out myself saved us/insurance at least a $120 doctor visit.)


rayfamily said...
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rayfamily said...

Thank you so much for posting. So true! My little one's had some medical issues this year so we're completley into our $1000 deductable. On top of our huge monthly premium. Thank goodness for today's signing, a step in the right direction!

Floridacracker said...

Funny that such a simple action, a few minutes of tugging on a suture should cost $120.

In the whole torturous debate over this bill, I don't think I ever heard the debaters challenge doctors and hospital fees. It seemed always to be focused on how do we pay for these services, rather than ... are these fees justified?

webb said...

Amen. It's horrifying what can happen when someone cannot afford health insurance. Even with pretty good insurance I am putting off shoulder surgery until I can save most of the deductible, but if I didn't have the insurance I would just not have the work done - not a good choice!

I hope when folks see how it works and how much better it is for the broad spectrum of folks, that we will be proud of ourselves for finally doing something to fill this gap for our sisters and brothers who are not so well off.

Hope Starflower is just fine now.

Ellen Snyder said...

I fell hard on my right arm in January and just to make sure I did not break anything I went in for x-rays -- $1,200 just to make sure I was okay! And we have a high deductible so paid most of that out of pocket. Good for everyone that the health bill passed, but the fees are crazy. Most of the cost was for the urgent care facility - still not sure what they provided that cost so much....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hey, consider yourself lucky. Several years ago while staying at a campground in eastern Kentucky, I fell off a camp-store's porch (either read those posters on the window or walk…but don't do them simultaneously) and skinned up a knee rather badly. I washed, applied anti-bacterial, and dressed my injury back at the tent, and wouldn't have thought much more about it, except I'd fallen on gravel directly in front of a bathhouse/restroom. Given this location, I thought it prudent to get a tetanus shot, as it had been awhile.

Turned out the only place I could get a shot was the ER of the local hospital. I had insurance. That shot still ended up costing me nearly $1800.00! I'm convinced getting that shot was the right thing to do, but if I'd have known then what the charge would have been, I would have skipped the shot and took my chances—and dealt with whatever consequences.

LRK said...

The step is overdue and too short, but it is indeed in the right direction. I just hope that our legislators in the near future don't content themselves with this action, and instead push forward for the continued necessary reforms.

Madcap said...

$120 to remove stitches? That's robbery! I certainly hope your health-care system makes huge strides with the new laws in place as a backbone.

Deb said...

Rayfamily- Those deductibles really hurt!

FC- That's the cost of a standard office visit around here. I don't know, maybe if it was referred as part of the follow-up care it might be less. Regardless, we do need some kind of accountability on medical fees.

Webb- I can't believe there has been this much resistance to something that desperately needs to be done. And yes, Starflower- you can hardly tell it happened.

Ellen- isn't that outrageous? I don't know what can be done to cut back the costs, but the emergency room is unaffordable. And that's where the uninsured go for their primary care.

Grizzled- That's exactly the reason we need insurance. I'd hate to have to choose between paying for the shot, and the unknown! And I'm not unwilling to pay something for it, but the cost has been prohibitive for so many.

LRK- I hope that this is a beginning. And, I like your blog.

Madcap- As the Republicans would have us think, you're all languishing for lack of access to medical care up there.

The funny thing is, our school band director, who is my favorite person at the school, offered to take out Starflower's stitches himself. I didn't think he was serious, but he was. He has done the same for more than a few students. Now wouldn't it be great if more lay people were able to take back simple medical care from the hands of the "professionals"?

Guy said...

Hi Deb,
I am a doctor who does stitches a lot and can comment of some things I read after you posted about Starflower's experience. $700 for an ER visit for the most minor of things is cheap compared to the rest of the country. I have seen bills of $6000 for 7 stitches, and I agree it is insane. The $1800 tetanus shot is an example. The problem is that the Hospital is fishing for a rare lucky full pay, and not concerned with the collateral damage they cause. The ER must be avoided. They are baited traps. Usual victims are the young, the old, the inexperienced, the desperate. The disabled and homeless dont have to pay the bill so they use the place regularly. To avoid the trap you must be prepared and informed. Get your tetanus in advance. Keep antibiotics in the fridge. Have a good first aid kit made for you by a ER nurse friend. By the way the billing rules for removing stitches is that the service was included with the fee for putting them in if you go to the same place. $120 is overcharging. I do it for free even if it wasn't my patient. If I need lunch money that day I might ask for $25, and still feel a bit guilty. I am a Minnesotan living in downtown San Francisco and $25 does not buy much lunch here.
Dr Guy