When Margaret O’Neill took her 5-year-old daughter to the hospital for surgery, she wasn’t expecting to end up in a headline.
According to the Denver Post, Margaret’s daughter was scheduled to have surgery to cut a flap of tissue under her tongue. The tissue was too tight, leaving her “tongue-tied,” according to the TV show The Doctors, who covered her story.
While preparing for the surgery, the doctor reportedly offered an additional service to Margaret: ear piercing.
Her young daughter didn’t have her ears pierced yet, so Margaret agreed. Both the surgery and the piercing went well — but then came the bill.
According to the Denver Post, Margaret was charged $1,877 for her daughter’s ear piercing procedure.
When the bill came through, Margaret’s insurance company wouldn’t cover the cost of the piercing. So Margaret took the bill back to the hospital, who in turn told her that they would send the bill to collections if she didn’t pay up.
Elizabeth Whitehead, the spokeswoman for Children’s Hospital Colorado, explained the amount to the Denver Post, saying that the hospital charges for “operating room time.” Per Elizabeth, the hospital charges the first 10 minutes of a procedure at a flat fee, and then patients are charged by the minute after that.
Elizabeth said, “It is incredibly difficult to assign minutes for procedures, therefore we follow the CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] guidance and equally split the minutes among all procedures.” She went on to explain that the overall bill wouldn’t have been $1,877 less if the piercing hadn’t been done, because the bill is for the combined services split into different procedures.
But that explanation doesn’t help with the fact that Margaret’s insurance wouldn’t cover the cost associated with the ear piercing, leaving her with $1,877 to pay out of pocket.
The hospital eventually “canceled the remaining balance” on the bill, according to the Denver Post.
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