Hospital Sends $29,000 Bill To Parents Of Murdered College Student

Not only did the UC Davis Medical Center send a $29,186.50 bill to the parents of college student who was beaten to death by his roommate, they also sent a letter letting them know that their son was considered indigent and was no longer welcome at the hospital if he needed further treatment. He doesn’t, of course, because he is deceased.

Apparently he also had insurance, and the hospital should have sent the bill to his insurer.

“I can’t believe that in any country besides the U.S., any civilized country, that the parents of a murdered boy would receive this bill for $29,000 and such an insulting letter,” Gerald Hawkins, the victim’s father, told ABC 10 in Sacramento, CA.

The bill in question was for “five minutes in [the hospital's] emergency room,” says ABC 10, who tried to assess why 5 minutes could cost $29,000.

Scott Seamons with the California Hospital Council said the critical response to Hawkins is what cost the most. He said UC Davis is a Level 1 Trauma Center, which means the best and most expensive doctors were waiting for Scott.

“Whether it was five minutes or 55 minutes doesn’t really matter in the initial review and assessment of the patient,” he said.

Trauma surgeons, nurses, technicians and more had to treat Scott before they realized they couldn’t help, according to Seamons.

“They’re all right there,” he said. “And those are highly trained, highly specialized and highly paid clinical experts. Clearly in the aftermath, in hindsight, they looked at it and determined there was probably less need for that, but in the first five minutes all of those resources were right there at the side of this patient, and they cost a lot of money.”

ABC 10 says that the letter included with the bill instructed the deceased to take his health care needs to a county clinic in the future. The hospital has apologized.

Why was Murdered Sac State Student’s ER Bill So High? [News 10]
Slain Sac State Student’s Parents Stunned by Hospital Bill, Letter [News 10]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. GitEmSteveDave_RockinLabCoat says:

    Perhaps they considered the cooler in the morgue a “room”, and were charging him for a bed? I don’t know, honestly. I mean, I guess you could say it was for tests, medical equipment usage, but honestly how many tests can you perform/do/send someone for in the five minutes from bursting through the doors until they pronounce you?

  2. YardanCabaret says:

    How much do those doctors and nurses make that 5 minutes of their time cost $29,000? That’s nearly $6,000 a minute.

    • sb01 says:

      @YardanCabaret:

      clearly, I am in the wrong line of work….

    • Kuchen says:

      @YardanCabaret: Most of that cost probably is NOT the staff, but the procedures, equipment, medication/blood products. A trauma team can actually do a lot in 5 minutes.

      • Dethzilla says:

        @Kuchen: I imagine 5 Trauma patients in that condition who can actually afford to pay that bill will cover the cost of the equipment.

        This is the type of article the Pro Health Care Plan can latch on to and get the bill pushed through.

        Of course the article forgot to mention that most Colleges include Insurance in tuition of the school… unless he opted out… which was dumb.

        • nova3930 says:

          @Dethzilla: Yeah but its like any other business that requires large capital expenditures. You have to keep enough $$$ on hand to pay for upgrades and replacements as they become available.

          What makes it worse is that you slap “3 letter gov’t agency approved” (FAA,FDA, etc) on anyting, and the cost goes up 5-10X due to certification compliance costs.

          We wanted everything to be heavily tested and safe to minimize risk because of people selling snake oil 100 years ago and now we’re shocked that those requirements have driven up cost….

          • ARP says:

            @nova3930: Most medical provider also grossly overcharge for two main reasons:

            1) To offset those who can’t ever pay
            2) To offset payments from insurers who often only agree to pay a fraction of the costs.

            So, people without insurance are getting the short end of the stick because, they’re being forced to pay the full amount.

            This also means that providers keep raising prices to offset 1 and 2. It’s a never-ending cycle.

            So, when you complain that you don’t want to pay other’s costs, too late, you already are.

            • nova3930 says:

              @ARP:

              Sorry but my wife is a Dr. and #2 is BS. No Dr. with a desire to eat will accept less than what care costs from a private insurer. At that rate, they’re better off closing the practice and sitting at home.

              The assertion that insurance pays less than what care costs is absolute nonsense if you think about it. If the majority of your business is covered by insurance, and there are really only one or two insurance companies per state, then logically if insurance is paying less than cost, you’re going to go out of business. Its the old business fallacy of “we lose money on every sale but we’ll make it up in volume.”

              Incidentally the only two “insurers” that pay less than what care costs are Medicaid and Medicare and the only reason they get away with that is the reimbursements are set by law.

              Thats also a big reason its becoming increasingly difficult for those on Medicaid and Medicare to actually find a Dr to treat them and end up going to state/federally funded residency programs that are required to treat them as a consequence of accepting that funding. They can’t get rates to cover care, they just stop accepting them where they can.

              You’re explanation also is quite contradictory when coupled with the fact that insurance premiums are going up. If insurance is paying less than cost, then non-payers should have no effect on cost. The answer lies in the fact that its not a contributor, its people use more and more expensive healthcare combined with the fact that we as Americans see health insurance as prepayment for health care services, which it should not be.

              For people making cash payments the fee schedules are typically set up such that one of three things happens.

              1. You pay up front. If you do you can generally haggle with the Dr. and get a fee close to what the insurance pays. The insurance company gets those rates because they have a guaranteed contractual payment arrangement in place.
              2. You don’t pay at all and get sent to collections or whatever.
              3. You pay in installments and pay a lot more than 1 in order to cover 2. No different than any other “financing” arrangement, especially one thats completely incapable of being secured.

              • ARP says:

                @nova3930: Sorry, I meant cost in terms of list price, not cost of providing services. So, providers need to make up for that low margin, by charging very high margin on others.

                • XTC46 says:

                  @ARP: And you are correct in your statement. My accounting professor was an accountant for a group of hospitals here and explained exaclty that as an example. They know that x% of paitieints will not pay…ever. Everyone elses fees get bumped up to cover that loss.

        • nbs2 says:

          @Trai_Dep: *groan*

        • friday3 says:

          @Dethzilla: I would ask that you provide your reference that MOST colleges provide insurance. In fact, it is just the opposite. They allow you to PURCHASE student insurance through a buying pool, but it is not part of any tuition

    • Rachacha says:

      @YardanCabaret: Although not on the same scale my employer would charge $300/hr for my time while I made only $30/hr. The additional fees paid for overhead, test equipment, insurance, building rent and utilities and administrative costs (whocp paid for the salaries of HR and accounting staff). In a hospital they have a large amount of redundant equipment and facilities “just in case”. 29k for 5 minutes seems excessive, but that cost most certainly covers morgue time and the paperwork to officially declare you dead.

    • yume_ryuu says:

      @YardanCabaret:
      I don’t even think Howard Stern makes that kind of money per minute.

  3. sleze69 says:

    While the letter was definitely inappropriate, the bill was still valid. Do people think that all hospital bills are forgiven if the patient dies?

    • Kuchen says:

      @sleze69: Except it wasn’t. It should have been sent to his insurer. And I don’t think they parents thought the hospital bills would be forgiven at all, they just didn’t expect (and rightly so) anything like this from the hospital.

    • treimel says:

      @sleze69:

      Well, inasmuch as the deceased was insured,and so this bill should never have recbeen sent directly the bill was in no way, shape or form “vaalid.” Moreover, the parents =/= the estate necessarily. rtfa.

    • kethryvis says:

      @sleze69: The family was covered under insurance. So it’s not like they are trying to get out of paying anything. It’s just crazy that 1) the bill came to them instead of going straight to Kaiser, their insurer, 2) that their son was called indigent when he was not, 3) that their son is DEAD and therefore won’t be seeking anymore treatment anyway, and the biggest one 4) IIRC he was basically pronounced DOA. Why did it cost so much for such a short period of treatment? I think we see part of what’s wrong with our healthcare system, folks…

    • Real Cheese Flavor says:

      @sleze69: Yeah, the bill doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the “Don’t bother coming back unless you have insurance, kthx” letter.

      • BluePlastic says:

        @Real Cheese Flavor: That’s what bothers me. Sending the bill to the parents is bad enough, but to add the snotty letter saying don’t come back without insurance…that’s really crappy. I understand medical care doesn’t come free, but surely they could at least have some kind of computer system that could flag bills for deceased patients to be reviewed for correctness before blindly sending them out. It’s really callous for a hospital to send a “don’t come back” letter to someone who died right there at that very hospital.

    • Herbz says:

      @sleze69:

      Just one more reason for a single payer system, then we don’t have to worry who pays for it.

    • StarVapor says:

      @sleze69:

      The problem is that inappropriate responses have become the norm these days and are really more of a view of what those who send them are really like.

  4. SagarikaLumos says:

    Add to it that any insurance company who got this bill would pay a substantially reduced bill. If a private individual got a bill for $35,000, private insurance would probably pay $18,000 and the medical center would consider that full payment from the insurance company. The irony is that if you have more money, they’re willing to settle for less of it. Even greater irony that a large percentage of the people who get the largest bills simply pay none of it at all.

  5. crazedhare says:

    My daughter died of cancer in February (she was just under 10 months old), and I still get bills and EOBs from the insurance company, the hospice care provider, the diagnosing-but-refusing-to-treat hospital and others, almost every single day. Most of these people are dunning me for $5 here or $7 there, because they undercharged a copay (they will only get that $5 via a crumpled bill shoved up their ass, if I have anything to say about it). The worst part for me is that most of these letters are written/mailed TO my daughter, most frustratingly from the insurance company who knows the situation because her policy has been terminated based on her death. HATE!

    The only place that’s never sent me a bill is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They’ve only sent me nice notes, and encouragement.

    • MaxSmart32 says:

      @bunnymare: I’m very sorry for your loss.

      That is the part that I don’t understand…obviously it was NOT just meant for the insurance company, why on earth would UC Davis tell the insurance company that the insured was no longer welcome at their facility, and that he should go to a clinic? Something’s not right about that.

      @humphrmi: That’s the very core of the problem. It’s so impersonal. No one cares about the individual anymore.

    • ColoradoShark says:

      @bunnymare: That is very sad. On a positive note, I’ll be increasing my donation to St. Jude’s.

    • msbask says:

      @bunnymare: Sorry for your loss. :(

    • SacraBos says:

      @bunnymare: To be fair, St. Judes is subsidized entirely by donations and Danny Thomas’s Foundation. The Shriners Hospitals (Scottish Rite, etc) are also the same and great places for kids. We donate there whenever we can.

      Other places need to bill in order to pay staff/equip so that when you do need them – they are there. If they didn’t get paid from somewhere, where would we be?

      I’m very sorry for your loss, and I do think some of the billing practices make things difficult.

      That’s one practice I really hate from hospitals. You go in, and you get a bill from the hospital, the doctor, the lab, the pharmacy, something else – all looking for their little co-pays and such. Sorry, but when I go to the hospital, I shouldn’t have to pay for it in such an a-la-carte fashion. The Hospital is the “prime contractor” and all bills should be coordinated through the hospital, not from each Tom, Dick and Harry individually.

      • crazedhare says:

        @SacraBos: Oh no, agreed. Medical providers should be paid, and setting aside the very unusual situation of St. Jude and similar charity-funded no-pay hospitals, they absolutely need to send bills.

        On the one hand, they should be more sensitive when an unexpected, tragic death has occurred. On the other hand, automation is a part of life and we have to accept it, as frustrating as it is.

    • repete7 says:

      @bunnymare: I’m so sorry for your loss.

      When my nephew passed away the insurance company refused to pay the bill for his admission to the hospital because he lived less than 24 hours from the time he was admitted. After a year, my sister threatened to take it the local news station and then they settled up.

      I don’t believe that these are automation mistakes. I believe that hospitals and insurance companies have these “errors” built in their systems to try to take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    What a nice reminder of the many issues the U.S. has with health care. Five minutes should never cost that much, especially if the patient doesn’t survive. At the very least they should a money back guarantee on that one!

    • madanthony says:

      @Loias:

      Why? Unless the patient died from their negligence, which he didn’t, it’s not their fault that he died. They still performed the services. And if their is anyone who I would want paid a shitload of money it’s a trauma team that’s literally saving lives.

    • iammoses says:

      @Loias:
      There is no guarantee in an emergency situation that you will live and the hospital does not tell you the odds and asks if you would like to try before it tries to save your life, the hospital will try to save your life with all it’s abilities and resources when your brought into emergency room. Even though the patient didn’t live, the hospital did commit 100% of it’s abilities and resources for that effort however brief it may have been. The hospital should be paid for that effort so that the hospital can continue to function to try to save other lives.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    Isn’t barring a dead person from further hospital care the same as barring a married person any more sex?

  8. jayde_drag0n says:

    The only person responsible for accrued debt is the person who accrued it. You cannot go after parents or siblings or employers for someone else’s debt, have you not been paying attention to this site? When a person dies the remaining debt is paid off of that persons estate, property and money leftover.. so if the kid does not have an estate, or money , or cars.. or anything the creditors and lenders take a loss, it does not come out of anyone else’s pockets. Debt is NOT inheritable.

    • ninram says:

      @jayde_drag0n: As he was a student, it could also be that he was still a dependent on the parents 1040. The parents of a depentant child, minor or adult, are responsible (as I understand it).

  9. IamBort says:

    If he had lived one hour, that would have cost over $350,000, or 8.4 million dollars a day, assuming those doctors had treated him. We are clearly all in the wrong business.
    So much for payday loans being a scam, they are small potatoes.

  10. pgh9fan1 says:

    Interesting that he could no longer seek services there because he’s indigent. That’s a particularly caring hospital. And people wonder why we need a national health insurance plan.

    • NickelMD says:

      As a disclaimer I don’t work at UCDMC, but I am an ER physician and I do transfer patients to Sacramento fairly often – many to UCDMC.

      While UCDMC is by no means a perfect hospital, far and away more than other local facilities they will accept the uninsured ER patients who I want to transfer because I don’t have the specialty services available at my hospital.

      Does the hospital bill patients and tell them to go to the county health clinic if they are uninsured? Yes. Do the doctors and nurses there do what is right for patients regardless of ability to pay? Absolutely. And those two things are not mutually exclusive.

      I have never once had a ‘wallet biopsy’ performed by UCD before they accepted a patient in transfer. The nurses and doctors at UCD do the right thing even if the bean counters send bills like this.

      In a broken health care system, UCDMC is one of the pieces that is holding our frail safety net together. At least in the Sacramento area.

    • Woodside Park Bob says:

      Under the federal EMTALA act, it is illegal for hospitals to turn emergency patients and women in labor away without assessing and stabilizing them. They might tell someone who is indigent that he is unwelcome, but legally in an emergency they are required to provide care.

  11. lehrdude says:

    I guess the hospital didn’t have a money-back guarantee?

  12. StanTheManDean says:

    These days a “good” trauma is going to rackup charges at the rate of ten’s of thousands of bucks per minute, especially in the first 5-10 minutes of care.

    And on average, better than 90% of those “good” traumas are not going to have a positive outcome (if you know what I mean)

    30 years ago I was one of those “good” traumas. My first 6 hours of care was $150,000. Remember, that was 30 years ago… when medical care was cheap. Fortunately I had fairly decent insurance and only had to pay the $2500 deductable.

    Why the big expense? Because the majority of the “good” traumas will have zippo insurance and those that do must pay for those that don’t.

  13. boobookitteh says:

    It’s hard to comment on the bill without an itemization. Level 1 trauma teams don’t come cheap though – neurosurgeons, trauma surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists – all have to be kept in house on call.

    regardless, the letter telling him not to come back is a little cold, even without considering that he died. It’s also problmatic that they would refer someone with a complicated medical situation to follow up with a different hospital. Thus fragmenting care – which leads to higher overall costs as tests are delayed or repeated with new providers.

    • imsnowbear says:

      @boobookitteh:
      The outrage is not sending the bill. They provided the services, they’re entitled to charge. Apparently they charge a lot, but that’s a different topic. To me the problem is the gratuitous and wicked hearted letter telling the patient to GFY and die somewhere else next time.

  14. Scuba Steve says:

    @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes:

    Ogre? From Revenge of the Nerds? He wasn’t in that.

  15. [DFX] Deimos says:

    In either case, the parents aren’t responsible for debts incurred by their adult son. It just doesn’t work that way.

  16. AdvocatesDevil says:

    If this was really an honest mistake, why would they have sent the INSURANCE COMPANY a letter saying “you’re not welcome back here”? Obviously this is another example of a hospital hoping to squeeze some money out of the family, who didn’t owe them anything. YES, the deceased received some sort of service, but no one except his insurance company is responsible for paying any bills. You cannot go after family, friends, associates, etc, for a debt after someone dies. This hospital is full of it.

  17. TheMonkeyKing says:

    Stunning…I believe this to be a case of relying on technology too much and not enough in-person investigation. Yeah, I know, people cost and that would cut into the profits.

  18. savdavid says:

    So the hospital thinks they weren’t responsible for a “clerical error”? Whoever sent out that bill works for the hospital and the hospital alone is to blame. They would sure take the credit for a anything a worker did that was good PR. Shameless!

    • madanthony says:

      @savdavid:

      I think there are different degrees of responsibility. Yes, they should have processes in place so dead people don’t get dunning bills. But some people seem to be acting like the hospital explicitly made a point of sending a bill to a dead person, rather than accidentally sending a form letter.

  19. SadSam says:

    This happens all the time, I just spent (for the sixth time) 1/2 hour on the phone with my insurance company and a doctor’s office that keeps sending me bills and collection notices for $250 bill despite the fact that both the insurance company and the doctor’s office have told me I’m not responsible for the bill (I paid my co-pay, the doctor’s office failed to timely submit it to the insurance company therefore the insurance company won’t pay it, etc.)

    Despite the fact that I’m not responsible for this fee the doctor’s office billing office said that the bills are generated automatically and that they have no way to turn them off. If an account shows a balance they bill it to the patient and send them to collections regardless of whether the patient actually owes the amount showing owed on the statement.

  20. DerangedRoleModel says:

    So, is death a pre-existing condition?

  21. rrapynot says:

    I work at a hospital that has an average of 60 beds filled each day. It costs us about $300 million per year to operate.

    • greggen says:

      @rrapynot: Hmm, that’s 300Million divided by 21900 (60 beds times 365 days in a year) equals under 14K a day per bed, or actual cost $570 an hour. Quite the markup…

  22. tripnman says:

    I thank the UC Davis Medical Center everyday when I wake up with my wife next to me. Three years ago she had to have emergency abdominal surgery and it wasn’t until the bills started arriving that we realized how awful her insurance really was. Not only did we have to cough up a $3000 cover charge to get her in the door, the final bill for surgery and six days of recuperation was just shy of $300,000. Her insurance “graciously” covered all but $80,000. We pleaded our case to UC Davis and the surgical team ended up donating their time, lowering our bill for room and board to $20K. Next month we make the final payment on that.

  23. chazcarr says:

    Well I’ve been to UCD Med, and must admit they are pricey even for a hospital. What makes it so is that there is a lot of researching going on with patients there. They need money to try and compete with mega-hospitals like Sloan or Anderson. Also, this tuff happens all of the time. Billing departments are a joke and always have been. I know of some cancer patients that have to call into the billing department at Yale every time they get a bill because of errors. Most people can’t figure these bils out. Luckily I can. You’d be surprised how much you pay for that you never used. You’d also be surprised how often a hospital will at first pretend that you don’t have an insurance card, they make more money that way.

  24. Trance1861 says:

    I am actually more upset with the tone of the letter than the fact they sent it to the parents of a deceased child (which, don’t get me wrong, is horrible).

    I understand in today’s world, hospitals need money from individuals and insurance companies to stay open, but I think the tone of a collection letter for a hospital bill should be VERY different than the tone of a letter for, say, a department store.

  25. gover57 says:

    Are the parent’s actually responsible for this bill? Can they tell the hospital to F*** off? glad i’m taxed like crazy up here in Canada and will never have to worry about any of this kind of crap. I’d be telling them to go after my kids estate to get thier money, and being a student, it’s likely he has no assets in his estate, and they wont get anything.. You guys need to vote in that damn medical law that’s all over the news down there. who cares what the stupid anit-new law hype is, its better than what your current situation is…

  26. mommiest says:

    I’d like to see the actual amount they would bill the insurance company–bet it wouldn’t be close to $29K.

  27. sumocat says:

    Sounds like a sterling endorsement of a single-payer system.

  28. Bob Lu says:

    I am confused. Judged by what Mr. Seamons said, it seem that the ER visit in question was unnecessary. Was the ER visit not directly related to the lethal beating?

    If this is the case I’d say the hospital made some bad PR decision but is not actually in fault. Someone used the resources improperly, they should pay for it, even be panelized. It is sad that they were later murdered, but it doesn’t change the fact that they used the the resources improperly.

    In the other hand if the bill is for treating the lethal beating, what Mr Seamons said will be totally utterly BS, and the hospial should not just apology. They need be investigated, fined and someone have to lose their job.

  29. t0ph says:

    Everyone that looks your way in a hospital sends you a bill. It is crazy ridiculous.

  30. MartaMyrrha says:

    Havent read the whole thing + articles yet…but I work at a trauma center and we easily go thru $20k, 30k, even $55k worth of blood products in an hour trying to save a life.

    I would need to see the itemization of course and chart, but Ive seen plenty of $30,000 30 minutes stays worth of bills for a pt who expires.

    As far as the “insulting” letters – the computer dropped them as any other patient accounting system would. “The computer” doesnt care if it is a $100 bill or $100,000 bill. I also would like to know if the hospital received insurance info timely when pt was there. If the pt can’t talk, expires, then family arrives, the liklihood insurance was known and provided timely by family during the most distressing time of their life isn’t high. The means it was set up as self pay and not set up to the insurance.

    I got tired of very injured people coming in, often without ID, who lie, are uncooperative, or are too injured to speak blame the “evil hospital”. We didn’t set up these systems to annoy and hurt family; culturally hospitals are a business that have to “Follow the rules” if they want to get reimbursed – while saving lives most of the time – so the doors can be kept open for the next round of v. injured people.

    The fact that only 40% of our patients have insurance cards with them doesnt help + the others who when asked what their insurance is say, “I don’t know.”

  31. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    @Adhominem: Heh, he only works on the website, but I’ll pass on the thanks to the team.

  32. Quatre707 says:

    Suffer a potentially fatal injury and seek emergency medical treatment? Don’t have insurance? Well, it doesn’t matter whether you live or die, because your live is still over after you receive the bill.

  33. sevenwhitehorses says:

    it is a sad commentary that they charge this much. is this not in part BECAUSE of the insurance companies? they agree to paying such high fees so the fees are charged. if they could only charge what an average person can pay it would be far less. also is how much can be claimed and gotten in court, once again, insurance companies can afford the outlandish fees awarded but in this case awarded by a jury who decided it was ok since it is, after all, just and insurance company who pays. it is us, who have to pay these high insurance fees that pay. most doctors i know would do the work for they love for less if not for the insurance fees. tort reform is needed.

    for five minutes of their time they really think they deserve $30,000 dollars? they were there at work! they are paid to be available. heck even most mechanics will look at a car and tell you if them inspecting it would be worth the charge.

  34. Cycledoc says:

    Whether it was an “honest” error or not is irrelevant. Where else in the industrialized world would this happen?

    NOWHERE!

  35. henrygates says:

    Am I the only one who thinks they should have sent the bill to the roommate?

  36. TheSurlyOne says:

    Back in 1982, my 22-yr old cousin shot himself in the head intended to commit suicide. He survived for an hour or so, but died on the operating table about 15 minutes into surgery. The neurologist billed my aunt, a single parent who worked two jobs and had just lost her eldest child, in excess of $17,000!!! She had no health insurance coverage, so she spent the next SEVEN years paying off that CROOK! Within the first year, he placed a lien on her house AND her car, which he said would remain until he was paid in full!

    The hospital and ambulance service never even sent her a bill. A few months before making her final payment to that S.O.B., karmic justice worked it’s magic. At age 48, he died (while cheating on his wife…literally, in the act) from a subdural hematoma! My aunt paid the last few payments to his estate. Later that year, his widow returned every penny my aunt had ever paid AND she paid off the $20k balance on her mortgage to apologize!!!

    Karma is a b!tch!

  37. jcargill says:

    Only in America. No, really, only possible in America.

  38. el elarmist says:

    I’m surprised the victim’s father called the US a ‘civilized country’ given that our uncivilized manner of health insurance is what kills so many people every year. That is why he go tthe big bill in the first place – the hospital assumes insurance will pay, and charges whateve they want to make a profit. Who cares that insurance doesn’t pay and the family is left with the bankrupting bill.

    CIvilized countries have universal health care.

  39. betsbetsbets says:

    This story has been a hot topic with the on-line autism community as well– the victim was mildly autistic. It’s terrible to find that it just keeps going and going thanks to UCDavis’s appalling treatment of this family. And I hope our fine congressmen and women will take note today.

  40. Darkneuro says:

    Doctors are like lawyers. 5 billable minutes turns into the minimum billable hour. And let’s not forget the over-inflated cost of the facility itself. And of course, unless it’s a non-profit hospital, they have 500% markup. They also sell $130 single-dose aspirin packets.
    Deciphering itemized hospital bills is a lesson in outrage.

  41. Bog says:

    It doesn’t even look like that either the estate, the victim, the family, nor the insurance of the victim is legally responsible for the charges and costs.

    All of that can be laid on the roommate who murdered the victim. When you illegally assault, harm, murder, etc. someone you are liable and responsible for all the resultant medical costs.

  42. allstarecho says:

    Last I heard, any hospital that accepts federal funds can’t deny you treatment. I can’t imagine that the University of California – Davis Medical Center doesn’t accept federal funds. That being said, how can they tell someone not to come back and to go to another hospital?

  43. NitrousO says:

    Oh wow. Small world. I volunteer in the UCD MC Emergency Room and know people who knew both the deceased and his killer who was his roommate if I recall. She said that the one who snapped and killed him did so with a baseball bat which he borrowed from one of her friends. They also said the guy was a little batty to begin with as he would routinely bang on the walls.

    The strange part is I have been in the resuscitation room where they would probably have taken him when they have had people in pretty serious condition come in and most of the time it looks like a bunch of people standing around trying to keep pressure on this or that while two people actually do something. How those few moments ever amount to that cost are always beyond me.

  44. uclajd says:

    Another reason ERs are closing. Next time you are dying and it takes 30 minutes to get to an ER, decide if this “free” medical care entitlement mentality is a good thing.

  45. chiieddy says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese wants it to be winter already: Don’t worry! They offer payment plans!!!

  46. spazztastic says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese wants it to be winter already: As a crime victim, any autopsy done would be done by state pathologists, not the hospital.

  47. fantomesq says:

    @humphrmi: Yep. The bill was supposed to go to the insurance agency… this ‘issue’ has already been remedied and is only being played up for its press value.

  48. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese wants it to be winter already: I hope he doesn’t end up having to get a pacemaker. Good luck to him. (And that job sounds awesome, btw. I was a beta player for HoN, I can imagine it’s a fun project to be working on.)

  49. Adhominem says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese wants it to be winter already: WoW. I love your boyfriend. I play HoN all the time with my friends. Seriously, like ALL OF THE TIME.

  50. lannister80 says:

    @floraposte: On a related note, “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Ugh.

  51. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    @floraposte: Double win!

  52. Con Seannery says:
  53. W10002 says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: I thought it was a clerical error too. However, if you were in his position, your emotions would overwhelm you too.

    Regardless of the situation, the hospital needs to reach out to the family [not through a PR press release] and personally apologize for the error. Otherwise, they have no excuse for the mistake.

  54. RvLeshrac says:

    @pecan 3.14159265:

    Excepting that in most other countries, the letter would never have been sent. They would have been covered by the NHS and would have had no contact with the billing department of the hospital.

    So, yes, he was correct: As a citizen of any civilised country, you’re never directly billed for emergency health care.

  55. PunditGuy says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Maybe it depends on the hospital system, but in all my (admittedly, thankfully, limited) dealings with such things the transportation is a completely different bill from a completely different entity.

  56. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: true, i had a hospital stay in october 2007 and got a follow up bill for the portion the hospital wanted to bill me [incorrectly] on top of the insurance payment in december 2007. didn’t hear a peep out of them in the meantime.

  57. TheHans says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Our local hospital automatically sent our account to Collections at the same time they mailed the bill for my husband’s $282 ER visit (stitches needed in his hand). I received the bill one week after he was treated, wrote the check (he had no insurance at the time), and mailed it the next day. Collections called THAT EVENING. I actually got to use “the check is in the mail” and MEAN IT. Apparently, since there was no insurance/ER visit, it was standard practice for that hospital to send the bill to collections when it was mailed. ‘Pissed’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  58. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @floraposte: Even when I’ve gone to the ER bills took forever. Perhaps it’s a regional thing or a public vs private hospital thing.

  59. The Porkchop Express says:

    @treimel: Sending the bill to the family is fine, they can send it to insurance and/or contact hospital and re-give insurance info. It sucks but they can do that.

    The letter advising that the son was no longer welcome on the other hand….horrible. not only should that letter not be sent, but they should have the records to know that he would no longer need to go there at all.

  60. treimel says:

    @The Porkchop Express:

    No, it’s not fine–you’re confusing “not unlawful” with okay to do. Moreover, it is entirely unclear that the family has any responsibility in this matter whatsoever–the proper person is the executor/administator of the estate, and that may or may not be a member of his immediate family. Additionally, the hospital itself admits that it should have sent the bill directly to the insurer-rtfa.

  61. Schmeeky says:

    @fantomesq: I think there are some legals issues at play here as well. If the patient had insurance and the hospital or medical provider has that information on file then they can’t send the bill to the family or whoever would be responsible for any expenses. At least in Georgia (which is one of the more regulated states insurance-wise) the provider can get yanked out of an insurer’s network for pulling stunts like that.

  62. crazedhare says:

    @johnfrombrooklyn: Oh, that is so very, very sad, I am so sorry that is happening. What a horrible thing for your hospital to have done.

  63. The Porkchop Express says:

    @treimel: They admit it now. Sometimes the insurance info isn’t there.

    Of course you’re right about the estate being responsible (if no insurance) but how are they to find the estate (again if no insurance or insurance info).

  64. Pibbs says:

    @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: I just watched it on Monday night for the first time. I left my couch wondering if I had wasted the last hour and a half of my life, or if it was a pretty decent movie.

    It’s Friday and I’m still not sure.

    But hey, I did get to see Poe’s boobs.

  65. treimel says:

    @The Porkchop Express:

    First, there is exactly zero evidence that the insurance info was missing. (By the way-if they had such a handy excuse, don’t you think they would’ve used it? I do.)
    Second, it simply isn’t the parents’ problem to help the hospital find the executor for the hospital. This really is very simple–the hospital sent a letter they had no right to send and caused gratuitous suffering. There’s a reason they apologized–they were dead wrong.

  66. jimv2000 says:

    @lannister80: Quality control only goes so far. If no one in the billing department knew he was dead, then no amount of QA in the billing department would have helped.

  67. iammoses says:

    @Megalomania:
    I think the $29000 is believable. When that patient came into the emergency room the hospital committed all it’s resources and abilities to try to save his life, the hospital didn’t care about the odds of a patient surviving it just went into the situation 100% doing what it does. It is tragic that the patient only lived 5 minutes but I think it’s unfair to to compare cost versus time of treatment in a hospital.

  68. supercereal says:

    @jimv2000: You might be released from your debt obligations if you die, but your estate sure isn’t. These things just don’t magically go away…

  69. RayonFog says:

    @jimv2000:

    I think that’s kinda the point. You would think a modern hospital with a level 1 trauma center such as UC Davis would have a little check box or something in the patient’s file that says “deceased”, and perhaps another one that says “insured”.

    I agree with what W10002 said – the hospital needs to reach out beyond just a press release.

    To me, the most ridiculous part of this is calling the dead patient indigent. Um, yeah, he didn’t pay his bill cuz he’s dead. Maybe if someone checked that little “deceased” box in his file, they’d know that.

  70. SlappySquirrel says:

    @jimv2000: One would think his only being billed for five minutes worth of care would be a big clue.

  71. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    @PunditGuy: yes, i worked at MetLife for a few summers, and i got to see a lot of the bills from different parts of car wrecks – there was usually a bill from the tow and auto storage, one from the body shop, one from the ambulance company, and one from the hospital. (we’d often see a bill from the power company to replace damaged power poles, as well)

  72. ARP says:

    @supercereal: True, but his parents are not the estate. Now, if they had evidence that they were the representatives of the estate, fine. But its pretty obvious, they weren’t that sophisticated about this.

    So this was more than just a clerical error (asuming he was an adult). They were attempting the sleazy technique of billing people who don’t have a legal responsibility for another person’s debt.

  73. treimel says:

    @Bob Lu:
    well, I went=off half-informed in my comment, too–strictly speaking, doa is when you’re pronounced dead “on arrival.” In this case, they worked on the kid for about five minutes before pronouncing him dead in the er.

  74. utensil42 says:

    @W10002: UCD’s lawyers will never allow the hospital or University to directly apologize because it would leave them too vulnerable to a lawsuit. Trust.

    /UCD graduate student and staff member, but not a “representative” of the University.

  75. holytrainwreck says:

    @ARP: nice. Rush Lintball +1.

  76. padams89 says:

    @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon: In some circumstances the transportation (especially if by air) is included in the ED bill because the ED or hospital system also owns the aviation service. Additionally, as someone who works in a Level 1 Trauma Center. You would be very surprised how much is done in five minutes. From the moment the patient enters the room they get full body x-rays which are read immediately by a radiologist, a full body exam by physicians and surgeons from multiple specialties among numerous other things.

    Things in a trauma bay happen in this order:
    Airway: the airway is secured and the patient is ventilated if unable to do so on his/her own. This may include intubation, surgical cricothyrotomy, chest tubes, chest decompression and many other highly skilled and precise procedures that are fatal if done improperly.
    Breathing: Respiratory therapists are present to get the patient on a ventilator, bi-pap, c-pap or other appropriate breathing machine if needed.
    Circulation: There are cariothoracic surgeons as well as the full crash team ready to resuscitate the patient using things as simple as a defibrillator or as complex as in room surgical interventions that include repairing the chambers of the heart.

    YES, all of this can easily happen in the first five minutes. In fact, it is extremely rare for the ABC’s to take more than 1 minute total especially because there are typically 10-15 people in the trauma bay, each with a specific and highly skilled purpose.

    While all of this is going on the aforementioned x-rays are being taken (everyone is wearing lead and the table has films in it so all they have to do is move the overhead system and clear the x-ray field for a few seconds.

    These things are just the tip of the iceberg of what is done in five minutes in a trauma bay. Although the bill is expensive, keep in mind that all these people are ready to do this for YOU 24/7/365 and although there is not a patient every shift the staff still needs to get paid.

  77. logic meme says:

    @padams89: Yep good post. People don’t realize how expensive it is to provide level 1 trauma care, and your bill could easily be much more than this if you went on to receive surgery, ICU stay, etc. While it sounds insane that 5 minutes would cost $29k, a level 1 necessitates a protocol that occurs quickly and involves multiple teams and tech that you have outlined well. (I’m a 4th year med student)

  78. ohenry says:

    @padams89: That actually is a very interesting, informative post. I give you a non-official off-brand gold star :)

  79. SagarikaLumos says:

    @ARP: No, they’re getting full payment probably from the insurers, the ones that they get nothing at all from are what drives it up, the insurance companies (responsibly) refuse to directly subsidize treatment for the uninsured on the backs of their customers and shareholders.

    The hospitals have to try. Every once in a while, someone, maybe the state, ends up paying the inflated bill and it evens out.

  80. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @lannister80: I gave up on it about five minutes in. Xanadu was more entertaining.

  81. gerrycomo says:

    @logic meme: How long before you make the big cashola and gain the respect of all your peers from being a doctor?

  82. sonneillon says:

    @floraposte: I am not a lawyer but my aunt had something similar where they were going after her for her sons debt. She had her lawyer file some type of paperwork which divorced her from the “inheritance.” That essentially did the same for his debts.

  83. Covertghost says:

    @coren: That’s nuts.

    For a transplant it was only $300k.

    For a separate visit where I was sedated with Dilautid for 3 days straight it was only ~$60k.

    Methinks those hospitals are just ridiculous