ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Many of us have received a surprise medical bill at one time or another, but Tonie Murray’s bill was almost as traumatic as her automobile accident.

In January 2018, a truck ran a red light, smashing into Murray’s car and sending her to Atlanta Medical Center. She spent eight hours in the ER and was charged more than $80,000.

How could it have been so expensive? Start with the four ibuprofen for $1,200. A $1,830 charge for a private room Murray said she never received. Add $25,000 for MRIs, and a base charge of $22,000. And what were the findings from a battery of tests? A doctor later diagnosed Murray with minor strains and a severe headache. 

Insurance industry experts say from the moment patients such as Murray are identified as auto accident victims, it’s like opening a cash register.

“As soon as you check ‘yes’ in that box,” says private patient advocate Cindi Gatton, it sets off a whole different cascade of ways in which the hospital will try and collect.”

Car insurance carriers don’t get the same discounts that health insurers do.

Attorney Steve Reiff took on Murray’s case. “I had suggested they charge her 8,000, which is still quite high,” Reiff said. 

Reiff negotiated with the hospital for a year. Needing an ally, Reiff called in Better Call Harry. After Harry’s story on Murray aired, the hospital knocked off $5,000 and then an additional $25,000. Then, this month, two years after the battle of the bill began, the two sides reached a resolution.

We’d like to tell you what it is, but we don’t know. The hospital required a non-disclosure agreement.

Reiff provided us this statement, “The parties are pleased to report that the matter has been resolved to their mutual satisfaction. Thank you for airing the story. It certainly helped us resolve the bill for Tonie Murray.” 

Harry says if you end up with an outrageous medical bill, remember you can negotiate, or you can hire a private patient advocate to negotiate for you. Don’t ignore the bill, but don’t give in.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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