A 20-year-old man who received a $55,000 bill from Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, Calif., for an appendectomy sparked an online uproar over the high costs of healthcare when he shared the stunning bill on Reddit.
"I never truly understood how much healthcare in the United States costs until I got Appendicitis in October. I'm a 20 year old guy. Thought other people should see this to get a real idea of how much an unpreventable illness costs in the U.S.," the man wrote on Reddit, along with a copy of the three-page bill he received from the hospital. He highlighted that he only spent 24 hours in the hospital.
Criticizing the cost of services he received, he said: "I think you can see how outrageous some of these costs are. Such as the recovery room that I was in for maybe two hours. Or the room and board that I had for one night. Or maybe the $4,500 worth of anesthesia they supposedly used on me."
The bill, which was posted six days ago on IMGUR, has been viewed nearly 700,000 times as of Thursday afternoon and has attracted a global response, mostly criticizing the incredible cost of American healthcare.
"I always thought that was weird about hospitals; they can basically force you to pay for a service that you didn't ask for, almost like date raping your bank account. If any other business used this tactic, they would face legal charges, imagine waking up in a restaurant being force-fed a $100 steak after passing out from starvation, and then being handed a bill for the meal you didn't order," wrote Reddit user Silent-G.
"As a Canadian who just took five months off work for a serious medical issue I can confirm. Got great immediate care and worried for nothing. End of the day I'm out about $80 for some pills after three operations and over three weeks in the hospital. Not to mention all the other procedures, meds, and everything else I went through. Socialized medicine rocks," noted Reddit user Whargod.
Other Reddit commenters like muscledhunter shared in the frustrations of the 20-year-old man while arguing that the Affordable Care Act popularly known as "Obamacare" is alleviating some of the frustration.
"My cousin died because he couldn't afford his cancer treatment back in 2005. The bills over a two-year period exceeded $500K, and the insurance company cut him off. I still remember my uncle pleading with the insurance company over the phone. They said he had reached his lifetime limit. He was 27. Not to get too political, but thank God this crap is illegal now thanks to the ACA," said the user.
Timothy McBride, a professor and health policy analyst at Washington University in St. Louis explained in a Yahoo! News report, however, that healthcare costs at hospitals are padded for a number of reasons.
"For some reasons that are probably quite legitimate, they pad these prices to cover what economists might call fixed costs," McBride told Yahoo! News. These costs he said are determined by factors such as uncompensated care, staff costs and the type of health facility.
"It's kind of like an opening bid if you went into an auto store," he added about hospital billing. "Very few people now pay the sticker price."
As for Sutter General Hospital, which sent the bill, their spokeswoman Nancy Turner agreed that hospital billing was complicated but the system will only reflect fairer pricing government-sponsored patients start paying their fair share.
"Sutter Health agrees that an improved billing structure is needed, where published charges are more closely aligned with actual costs," said Turner. "And a more straightforward pricing system is only possible when reimbursement from government-sponsored patients covers actual costs," she said.