Avoiding High Costs for Routine Lab Tests: A Patient’s Story

December 8, 2023

Imagine receiving a bill of $2,400 for routine lab work. Reesha Ahmed, a 32-year-old woman from Venus, Texas, recently shared her frustrating experience with hospital-based lab testing.

She was pregnant and during her prenatal checkup, she was told to get routine bloodwork done at a lab down the hall at the hospital. Little did she know that this seemingly routine visit would result in exorbitant bills and complications. Her story is only more frustrating because she miscarried and still had to fight to get her bills reduced.

“To come to terms with it mentally, emotionally, physically — dealing with the ramifications of the miscarriage — and then having to muster up the fighting strength to then start calling your insurance, and the billing department, the provider’s office, trying to fight back a bill that you don’t feel like you were correctly sent? It’s just, it’s a lot,” Ahmed told KFF News.

Hospital-based labs often charge significantly higher prices for common blood tests compared with independent labs or physicians’ offices. Ahmed’s case highlights this issue, as she received a bill of $9,520.02 for blood tests and pathology services. Even after negotiations, her insurance covered a portion, leaving her with a hefty lab bill of $2,390.12. She fought more and refused to pay the charges, but Texas Health sent her bill to collections. Ahmed filed an appeal, but it was denied. She also filed a complaint to the Texas attorney general’s office.

It was only after Texas Health was contacted by a KFF Health News reporter that the hospital called Ahmed and told her it would remove the charges from her account and from collections.

Unfortunately, her case shines a light on using a hospital lab for routine testing and how it may be more costly. According to Health Cost Institute, hospitals typically charge more than a physician’s office or independent lab for the exact same tests.

The good news is that patients can be proactive. Keep copies of itemized bills and insurance statements to help identify any discrepancies or potential overcharges, and when recommended lab work is needed, patients can request that the requisition be sent to a commercial lab such as Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics, which often offer more affordable pricing options.

The issue of high prices for hospital lab tests has caught the attention of state and federal lawmakers, who have proposed legislation that would equalize payments for certain services, regardless of whether they are provided in a hospital outpatient department or a doctor’s office.

Have you been charged for lab work at a hospital? We’d like to hear your story. Share it here.