Appendicitis ruled out, but the hospital bill was a big pain

July 15, 2021

Each month, National Public Radio and the Kaiser Health Network report on an outrageous medical bill. And if you haven’t heard the story, June’s “Bill of the Month” was a doozy. 

Claire Lange-Ree was at home taking an online chemistry class when she felt a sharp pain in her side. She called her mom, a nurse practitioner, who advised her to go to the emergency room. 

Once there, Lange-Ree, 21, received morphine and an anti-nausea medication via an IV. She also received a CT scan and various tests, which eventually ruled out appendicitis. The diagnosis: Doctors said Lange-Ree likely suffered a ruptured ovarian cyst. That’s painful, but fortunately, not life-threatening. 

The bill from the Colorado Springs hospital was the biggest shock: $18,735.93. It included two $722.50 fees (that’s a total of $1,445!) for a nurse to push drugs into the IV —  a process that takes mere seconds. 

The NPR and Kaiser Health News reporter characterized the IV push fee as part of the “unbundling” trend. Similar to airlines, which charge extra fees for everything from checking your bag to a seat closer to the front of coach, hospitals and medical providers have started to charge separate fees, even for the smallest of things. Like an IV push. 

While the “push” fee wasn’t the biggest charge (the CT scan cost nearly $10,000), Lange-Ree and her mom found it the most upsetting.  

“That was so ridiculous,” Lange-Ree told reporters. What’s more, the anti-nausea drug she was given is also available in tablet form – for about the price of a soda.  

In the end, Lange-Ree’s health insurance company negotiated with the hospital to lower the bill. Lange-Ree and her mom continued to research and challenge the hospital’s long list of charges. But they eventually paid what was determined to be their share after insurance.  

Have you been hit but a ridiculous hospital or provider fee? Tell us about it. Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.