ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Twelve hundred dollars for four ibuprofen—that’s how much Atlanta Medical Center charged Tonie Murray when she went to the emergency room following a car accident. By the time she was discharged, her bill was $80,000.
The accident happened at the intersection of Lavista Road and Highway 29.
“She hit me so hard that the engine dropped out of my car, and my car just stopped,” Murray explains to Better Call Harry.
She was rushed to Atlanta Medical Center where intake listed the incident as an auto accident. That’s when the billing began. She was charged $22,000 for trauma one, $4,522 for a CT scan of her head, and $5,300 for a CT scan of her spine.
When Murray complained of a dull ache in her leg, she was given an MRI—which cost $8,197. She was given four ibuprofen for the pain, which cost her $300 each.
“I’ve been practicing for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything as egregious as this,” says personal injury attorney Steve Reiff. He’s been working to negotiate Murray’s bill for more than a year.
Patient advocate Cindi Gatton says the problem starts when hospitals check the auto accident box.
“As soon as you check that box, it sets off a whole different cascade of ways in which a hospital is going to bill and try and collect,” she explains.
Auto insurance companies don’t get reduced rates like health insurance companies do, which explains why the bill can be so high.
“I feel like I’m being traumatized all over again,” says Murray.
WellStar responded to CBS46 with the following statement:
"WellStar acknowledges that the time it has taken to resolve this isolated matter is not typical. While billing discussions between patients, payers and providers are common, it is our goal to help patients navigate the best possible outcome in a timely manner.
As a not-for-profit health system, we provide emergency medical care to all individuals, regardless of their insurance coverage, or their ability to pay for medically necessary services. We also offer financial assistance for eligible patients. Last year, we provided $685 million in charity care.
We are not able to share specific details regarding this matter. However, we began our review of the patient’s concerns when contacted by the patient’s attorney earlier this year and responded with a request for additional information. We are still waiting for this information.
As with all patients seeking financial assistance, we are committed to providing help. However, fully resolving this matter will require cooperation in determining their financial eligibility."
What can you do to make sure your hospital bill doesn’t get out of hand if you’re in an accident? Better Call Harry has these tips:
- Contact your health insurance provider and find out if auto accidents are covered.
- Contact your car insurance company and find out what the payout is for medical.
- If you have insurance, seek medical care from providers that are in your insurance network.
- Before you sign on with an attorney, find out how they negotiate the bill. That settlement needs to be enough to cover everything