4 small screws in foot cost patient $15k, total patient bill tops $115k

Written by Mackenzie Garrity | May 14, 2018 | Print  |

Sherry Young was experiencing chronic pain in her left foot. To manage the pain, an orthopedic surgeon at Oklahoma University Medical Center in Oklahoma City recommended surgery, according to NPR.

Ms. Young had undergone foot surgeries in the past and her insurer BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma typically picked up the bill. However, days after her most recent foot surgery, Ms. Yong was left with a $115,572 bill for a three-day hospital stay.

Shocked by the bill, Ms. Yong asked OU Medical Center for itemized copy of the bill. In it, she found the four 2.8 millimeter wide and 14 millimeter long screws from Arthrex cost her $15,076. While it is unclear how much Arthrex charges OU Medical Center for the screws, NPR reports the sale price for the screws ranges from $300 to $1,000.

Comparing the sale price of the screws, OU Medical Center potentially marked up the price by 275 percent to 1,150 percent. This contrasts some manufacturing costs, which sit around $30 per screw, according to Steve Lichtenthal, vice president of business development at the Orthopaedic Implant Co, NRP reports.

The screws were not the only major charges on Ms. Young's bill. She was charged $4,265 for a drill bit, $5,407 for a tool to remove and cauterize tissue and $619 for a saw blade. Most of the equipment could be sterilized for other procedures.

In the end, Ms. Young did not have to pay the full bill. BlueCross BlueShield came back with a letter saying they did not initially deny her but needed more information. The insurer was at first under the impression she did not need a three-night hospital stay, as many feet procedures are performed in the outpatient setting.

On the last statement from the hospital, Ms. Young needed to pay $413 for an "appeal denied."

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