New Legislation Aims To Reform Hospital Billing Practices

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Many Angelenos find themselves facing unexpectedly hefty hospital bills after going in for a test or procedure. One senator hopes his new legislation will help curb the sticker shock.

Russell, who asked that only his first name be used, recently required a two night stay in a local hospital to be treated for an infection. He was shocked by the $9,500 bill submitted to Medicare.

“It’s devastating,” says Russell. “It’s incomprehensible.”

KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman reports Russell received a secondary statement letting him know that had he not used Medicare, the stay would have cost him $42,000.

Russell did not have a surgery or require any specialized care.

The law requires hospitals to give an estimate of their charges when asked. But those estimates do not include the cost of doctors or other experts who contract with the hospitals.

Jesse Daltos is a Hollywood stuntman who recently suffered burns to his hands which required a relatively brief visit to a local hospital.

Daltos, 36, said he was given gauze and an antibiotic ointment — along with a bill for $1,600.

“It was absurd,” said Daltos, who does not have health insurance. “I’ve never spent that much money on gauze, I could’ve had gauze for years.”

Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu says he plans to introduce a bill this month that places the burden on hospitals to disclose all potential charges associated with a procedure or stay.

Lieu says the issue was brought to his attention by KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO.

“After I listened to it, we did some research up here in Sacramento,” says Lieu. “It turns out that number one, it is a problem. And number two, people are getting hit with hugely, grossly phenomenal medical bills for which they have no control over the cost.”

Jan Emerson-Shea of the California Hospital Association, a lobbying group, said California is one of only five states where most hospitals cannot hire their own doctors, contributing to billing confusion.

“Most patients have the belief that physicians are employees of the hospital,” says Emerson-Shea. “And so the cost estimates that the hospital can provide include those of all the various physicians who may treat them, and that is not accurate.”

Lieu’s legislation is likely to fight an uphill battle from state hospitals.

More from Charles Feldman
  • Henry

    Please do a pieace on the congress and seanate retirement system. How soon do they qualify and how much they get. Maybe it can be reformed and save taxpayers money?

    • ann

      yes..please do a piece…Americans need to know the benefits..and how it measures up to theirs!! we pay for them to get so much more than we,the taxpayer,gets. it is shameful.

  • SFBob

    First name only Russell does or doesn’t have Medicare?! And a Hollywood stuntman who doesn’t have insurance?! This story makes absolutely no sense. And let me guess…neither backs Obamacare.

    • ann

      SFBob..I have medicare..and can’t afford to use my benefits! Hollywood stuntman,actors…SAG card holders…all need to have so many hours worked to qualify for insurance .
      We need national healthcare..but,do you want the government telling you that YOU MUST PURCHASE THEIR INSURANCE? what about people who make minimum wage..they can not afford to purchase insurance…if you can afford your healthcare,that’s great..and i am glad for you. But some truly can not..and are being ripped off by the “medical community”.

  • spings

    Had a fistulagram at Holy Cross Hospital. It was a 45 minute outpatient procedure. This didnot include the doctors or antheiologists charges. Holy Crooks billed medicare $23,000. Medicare paid $4300, and I was billed $865. If it really costs $23000 and they only get $4165 they should be broke, yet they justed finished adding a 133 bed wing. They claim to be a non profit, but I have some doubt about that. Why do the hospitals inflate their billing?

    • ann

      have you seen what they charge for a tylenol?.
      did you get a full copy of your bill with all charges? do any charges seem funny? call billing and QUESTION EVERY SINGLE CHARGE!!!!!!

      • spings

        ann, I take an 81 mg asprin everyday, and yes I did see that they charge in excess of $5.00. When I saw the charge, I thought next time I have to go to the hospital, I’ll go down to their gift shop and buy a bottle of aspirn !

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