Hospitals take advantage of uninsured patients

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Imagine you are standing in line to purchase a great new shirt you have been wanting for weeks.

It just so happens that the two people in front of you are also purchasing this same product. The first customer approaches the register and the shirt sells for $9.99. The next customer goes to the register and the shirt is now selling for $15.99. A little confused, you lay your shirt down for the cashier.

As she scans it you hold your breath.

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To you dismay, the shirt rang up for $24.99. You wonder to yourself, “What is going on here?”

Did you know that hospitals can do exactly that? According to your insurance status, you could be charged an array of prices for the exact same test or procedure as insured patients.

According to the book Critical Condition by Donald Bartlett and James Steele, hospitals charge the highest prices to those without insurance.

The groups of people who are least likely to afford high hospital bills are the ones being charged the most. On the other hand, private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare are able to negotiate with the hospital to get “volume” discounts off of current rates. So, in the end, a person without insurance is billed three to five times more for the same test the insured patient in the next bed gets billed.

According to 60 Minutes on CBS, hospitals get away with this heinous act because insurances are aware of what they should be charged but the uninsured patient usually is not aware they are being overcharged.

Medicare and Medicaid pay hospitals 22 billion dollars each year to help them bear the financial weight of the uninsured.

This should enable the hospitals to charge the same amount for services provided.

It is time for us to take a stand against price gauging. According to there are steps that can be taken to fight this war.

First, register your case with the Fairness Foundation. Next request a copy of an itemized statement from the hospital that provided your care.

Request a copy of the UB 92 or the UB 04 from the hospital in writing.

This will have the medical diagnosis codes and what the government pays for the same procedure.

An example of an appropriate letter can be found at

Make copies of everything.

Mail these documents to the hospital, collection agency and credit bureaus.

Use certified mail with a return receipt.

Save copies of all these documents for your records.

This is just one way that we can stand up to hospitals to prevent price gauging. It is time that everyone is treated equally regardless of their insurance status.

Hospitals need to know that we are fed up with the outrageous costs that they thrust upon us. Hopefully they will soon get the message that enough is enough.

Alicia Fannin R.N.

Ohio University BSN student