KSL INVESTIGATES

Gephardt: Surprise Hospital Charges Blamed On Billing Error

Mar 18, 2021, 6:20 PM | Updated: 7:52 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When Jacob Ward’s daughter needed dental surgery, he asked Primary Children’s Hospital how much it was going to cost. He was told $2,000, which he paid upfront.

Everything went well with the procedure and his daughter’s mouth was well on its way to healing when Ward got a bill that made his mouth hit the floor. Primary Children’s wanted an additional $3,600 — a difference of almost triple the bid.

What’s worse, because the original bill was less than Ward’s insurance deductible, he decided to pay out of pocket. Now it was too late to ask his insurance company to pay.

When Ward called the hospital to protest, he said he was told he needed to pay.

“I feel like we did all our homework up front, we budgeted, we used an HSA, all the things that you’re told to do to be responsible. And now we don’t have any answers and we’re on the hook for $3,600,” he said. “Basically just want what we agreed to.”

With debt collectors breathing down his neck, Ward paid. But wondering how he could be told one price then charged more, he also decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators.

Indeed, there are rules about some industries staying close to a bid — but the rules are very narrow.

For example, in Utah, a mechanic has to be within 10% of what they say a repair will cost. And the U.S. Department of Transportation caps how much airlines can inflate ticket prices in unexpected fuel fees.

KSL-TV couldn’t find any rule that says a hospital must be within a bid price. As anyone who has been to a doctor in modern times knows, hospitals and doctor offices frequently have paperwork that patients are required to sign indicating that the patient is responsible for the final bill, whatever it may be.

Does that mean Ward is out of luck?

No.

The KSL Investigators reached out to Primary Children’s Hospital on his behalf through the public relations department and, just like that, their billing department had a change of heart.

Ward received a refund for $2,200, the amount he paid to keep the debt collectors at bay.

In a statement, Primary Children’s Hospital wrote there was a “billing error,” and the hospital apologized to Ward and his family.

A hospital spokesperson also said they are “re-examining our internal processes to ensure these types of billing errors don’t happen again.”

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Gephardt: Surprise Hospital Charges Blamed On Billing Error