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Parents tried to avoid the ER but ended up with a $937 bill to treat baby’s toe

If the pediatrician’s office is closed and urgent care doesn’t have pediatric expertise, the expensive ER is the only option

baby toe treatmentThe Sroka family needed help to treat a cut on their 1-year-old daughter’s toe. The pediatrician’s office was closed, and dad’s doctor didn’t have the right expertise for little toes. So, the local emergency room became their only option

Some antibiotic ointment and 29 minutes later, they were on their way. And one month later they got a bill for $937, all of which fell under their deductible, according to Vox.

Count the Srokas among hundreds of bills submitted to Vox’s ER billing database, which is looking into how emergency rooms in the U.S. charge consumers. And theirs is not the only story about families needing pediatric care that ends up costing far more than they bargained for.

“This is nuts. We’re talking about a visit that appears to have lasted about 30 minutes,” Ashish Jha, a Harvard professor who has studied health care prices told Vox. “The notion that this generates a charge of $937 is a reminder that [emergency departments] can charge whatever they want. There is no relationship whatsoever to the actual cost.”

In some cases costs come from high hidden fees, in others from expensive medications administered. Hospitals say their costs stem from the need to be prepared for anybody with any condition that walks in their door.

But consumers are paying high costs whether they even use some of the expensive hospital equipment or not. And they feel trapped when the ER is their only option and their children need care.

What do you think? Are you a parent who has needed to take a child to the ER and been faced with a big expense? Or, have you been surprised by any unexpectedly high bill? Share your story.