Another Reason Health Care Costs So Damn Much

Because give a hospital and inch and it will try to bleed you of every penny you have.

The web site California Healthline web site tells the story:

On the first morning of Jang Yeo Im’s vacation to San Francisco in 2016, her 8-month-old son, Park Jeong Whan, fell off the bed in the family’s hotel room and hit his head. 

There was no blood, but the baby was inconsolable. Jang and her husband worried he might have an injury they couldn’t see, so they called 911, and an ambulance took the family — tourists from South Korea — to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH).

The doctors at the hospital quickly determined that baby Jeong Whan was fine — just a little bruising on his nose and forehead. He took a short nap in his mother’s arms, drank some infant formula and was discharged a few hours later with a clean bill of health. The family continued their vacation, and the incident was quickly forgotten.

Two years later, the bill finally arrived at their home: They owed the hospital $18,836 for a visit lasting three hours and 22 minutes, the bulk of which was for a mysterious fee for $15,666 labeled “trauma activation,” also known as “a trauma response fee.”


Do you see a “trauma” in this situation?

Didn’t think so.

But the hospital did – and it decided to capitalize on it by imposing its trauma response fee.  That’s an actual thing now, and such fees range from a little more than $1000 at a hospital in Missouri to more than $50,000 – $50,000! – charged by one California hospital. The 2016 average hospital trauma response fee in the U.S. was a shade under $4000.

Most insurers pay nowhere near these amounts, but when you don’t have insurance the eyes of the folks at the hospital light up and they see a sucker and try to stick that sucker for everything he (or she) is worth.  Medicare, which pays for more health care than anyone else, has a simple standard:  it only pays the fee if the patient in question received at least 30 minutes of critical care from the hospital’s trauma team – which this child most certainly did not.  Even when the patient does receive that level of care, Medicare doesn’t give a damn what the hospital charges: itpays $937 toward the fee and that’s all there is to it.

The hospital didn’t even try to argue that this patient with a boo-boo received a half-hour of care from its trauma team.

But that’s hospitals for you:  if you walk in their front door wearing a shirt, they’re going to do everything they can to make sure that when you leave, you’re shirtless.

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