Hospital Bill

About six weeks ago I had double-pneumonia. It really didn’t bother me all that much except for the fact that I also have a heart condition. This makes my heart especially susceptible to infection. One thing that could be a symptom of this infection is a ridiculously high fever or a sickness that just won’t go away. So, to be safe, I went to the hospital and they admitted me.

A few posts ago I noted one of the problems I have with the current health system in the U.S.: namely insurance companies not paying the same price as individuals pay for the same service. Today, I’d like to rant a minute about the cost of those services.

I got the bill today. Let’s run down the list of costs and the deliberate confusion both hospitals and insurance companies impose so that I would have absolutely no idea what my bill would be.


Semi-Private Room/Board: $1303.34 I was admitted to one of the smallest hospitals in the state. Of the 30 rooms they have, every one is semi-private. So is there an additional charge for the “private” part? Who knows.

Pharmacy General: $226.18 I’m not sure what this means. I’m assuming it’s the drugs I was given, but all they gave me was tylenol, mucinex, saline, and an antibiotic…

Pharmacy IV Solutions: $119.96 …and the saline and antibiotic were both IV drips. Is the bag an additional hundred dollars? Were these drugs included in the “Pharmacy General” category? Who knows.

All of the list items labeled “Lab” I can live with ($677.18 total). They did a lot of tests that all came back corroborating the same thing I told them with my mouth: I don’t get sick often, but when I do it’s often sudden and accompanied by a high fever (although I’m not sure I trust the “Lab Urology” one: they never tested my pee, they just checked to see how much I was peeing, considering how much fluid they were giving me).

I can also live with “Radiology Diag Chest X-Ray,” “Emergency Room General”, “Pulmonary Function General,” and “Cardiology EchoCardiology;” ($2186.36 total) they hooked me up to various machines and I’m assuming these machines cost money to buy and run and therefore have a set price for which the hospital charges. As I said last week, I’d be wrong, but that’s what I assume.

Drug Self-Administered: $40.12 This charge is attached to the “Pharmacy General” category. As I said, I was only given four things: two were IV drips, two were over-the-counter pills they gave me every 8 hours or so. So either it costs the hospital about $40 for those little paper cups or they’re charging me for the opportunity to place the pills on my own tongue (I wonder how much they charge if they have to put the drugs in my mouth for me).

Finally, there’s the super-ambiguous Prof Fees Emergency Room: $312.71. I think they’re just messing with me at this point. Either “Prof” means “professional”, which means that they’re charging me $300 to type my name on a computer screen, or “Prof” means “professor”, which means this is a teaching hospital (it’s barely an animal hospital).

Also notice that none of the charges are “$50 even”. All of the charges have a specific dollar/cent amount attached to them. Because then it sounds like they’ve calculated all of this down to the penny. Four doses of Tylenol? Not a dollar. That’ll be $40.12.

I’m starting to think the completely made-up price of gas and the prices hospitals charge for various services are closely related.

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