Hospital Sends Crippling Bill for Emergency Back Surgery

You’re saying, as an orthopedic spine surgeon, you believe this was a medically necessary procedure. 1000%.
Let’s move beyond that, because I don’t care how medically necessary it was, $650,000, whoa. That’s a lot.
Whoa, that’s a lot of money. So joining us now via Skype is John Hopkins surgeon and advocate for transparency medicine doctor, Marty Makary. Dr. Makary, you’ve already been on our show earlier this season, talking about this money versus medicine, and I’m sitting here looking at Frank thinking, “What is a patient to do?” Insurance or no insurance, you get a bill for $650,000 for a four-day stay in the hospital. I mean, I have to tell you, I’ve heard of a lot of really high bills, but this may take the cake. Now the doctors who did him did a heroic job. They did a heck of a job letting this guy walk again. And this hospital turns around and gouges him $650,000? That should be a $30,000 to $50,000 procedure. You look it up on any one of these reference space price websites. They are price-gouging. It is a disgrace. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should forgive the entire bill. They should apologize not just to Frank, but to the entire community that they serve. American hospitals were built to serve their communities, not too gouge them.
(audience clapping) So Dr. Makary, how do you handle this? How do you prevent this from happening to you? Well first of all, we need public accountability around our nation’s hospitals. And if you’ve been gouged, you not only take it to the person at the call center, you go over their head if you’ve been treated unfairly. You go right to the revenue cycle department. You go to the hospital CFO. You go to the C-suite. Have the hospital operator connect you. You go to the hospital board members. We have 20 steps people can do to fight an unfair bill at And we have to remember that they are there to serve communities, not to gouge them. And so then, the other side of that coin, you get this massive bill. Those are steps you can individually take. But how can you get your insurance company, if you’ve honestly paid into the system, how can you get them to cover this in a scenario like Frank’s? What can you do to help facilitate that? Well first of all, people need to fight with their insurance companies when they’ve been treated unfairly, we all know that. But when it’s over your head, get help. There are advocacy groups out there. There are groups that you can hire like Frank did, and that group was able to lower this bill initially down, I think to $200,000 or something from $650. How do you go from a bill of $650 to $200, to what I hope is next free, because they should be embarrassed at what happened? You need help. You need these advocacy groups to help you. And we’ll actually list some of these advocacy groups on our website.

7 thoughts on “Hospital Sends Crippling Bill for Emergency Back Surgery

  1. The guy who had the surgery is from my area and I need back surgery as well and love to know where he went so I avoid going there…I went to a neurosurgeon that wasn’t covered but she said to file it my insurance company and she would accept whatever I got from them but this bill this guy got is OUTRAGEOUS for someone who has health insurance…I am sorry to this guy that they put him through this…unreal!!

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