Sam Seylar is 16 and despite a hard fall that broke his collarbone, he still likes skateboarding.
"When I fell, my shoulder hit the ground first."
The injury wasn't the first time Sam's parents have had to get him emergency care. In fact, in January Sam's dad Fred Seylar took the teenager in when he had a serious ear infection.
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"I said 'do you need to go to the doctor.' 'Yes, Dad, I feel like my ear drum's going to break.'"
Fred remembers it was around 3 a.m. and he wound up taking his son to a nearby Dignity Health Urgent Care for treatment, but they had already closed. However, about a half-mile up the road he found a similar looking building that also said Dignity Health.
But the small standalone building appeared to be open 24 hours a day and it indicated that it was an emergency room. So, the Seylars went inside.
"My kid's crying so I wanted to get to the fastest place possible."
Before they could see a doctor, Fred says he was asked to sign a document saying that he knew they were in an emergency room.
"So, I signed the paper and I said well how much is this going to cost? And they said we can't say until after he's seen the doctor, and I'm figuring maybe 500 bucks, $500, $600-$700 at the most."
Sam was seen by a doctor who reportedly looked inside the teenager's ears and determined he had a serious ear infection.
As a result, the doctor wrote up a prescription and gave it to Sam and his dad.
The two were then presented with the bill, and Fred was shocked at the cost.
"We were with the doctor less than 15 minutes; the total bill was $2,169 including the insurance payments they've already received."
They couldn't believe it. More than $2,169 to diagnose and treat an ear infection? Fred added:
"I feel like I was ripped off, they may as well stuck a knife at my back at 3 o'clock in the morning and say give me your wallet and credit cards, that's how I felt."
3 On Your Side got involved and we asked Dignity Health to make sure the bill was correct.
In response, they said it's important for consumers to realize there is a huge price difference when it comes to an Urgent Care facility compared to an Emergency Room.
They also sent 3 On Your Side a statement saying;
"Our team explains to each patient that they are at an emergency room, that they will receive the highest quality emergency care at the facility, and that the fees may be higher than at an urgent care."
The Seylars say they get that, but they also suggest that slapping up a sign that says Emergency Room on a small building to justify higher prices just isn't right.
"If they would have told me it was going to be $2,000 I would have waited until the morning, saved me $1,800-$1,900. Yes, I would have waited, it would have hurt his ear but it wouldn't have hurt my wallet as much."
After 3 On Your Side’s involvement, the family says Dignity Health has agreed to knock off an additional 25 percent of the remaining balance. That means in total, they will have paid over $1,100 out of pocket, not to mention their insurance has already paid its share. The family says they hope they never have to visit an ER again.
The complete statement sent to to 3 On Your Side from Dignity Health on 6/6/18, can be read below:
Statement from Dignity Health Regarding Freestanding ER’s
Dignity Health offers care at both urgent care clinics and at hospital-based and freestanding emergency rooms in order to provide patients with options for the level of medical care they may need.
It is important for patients to seek the appropriate level of care and understand which facilities their insurance company covers.
Dignity Health actively works to educate the community and our patients on when to use an ER, and multiple signs on our buildings clearly mark them as “Emergency Room” and “ER”. Our team explains to each patient that they are at an emergency room, that they will receive the highest quality emergency care at the facility, and that the fees may be higher than at an urgent care.
All of our hospital-based ERs and all of our freestanding emergency rooms offer board certified emergency physicians, emergency trained registered nurses, a full suite of diagnostic imaging equipment, on-site labs, etc. These capabilities are all available on a 24-7 basis. This is why bills at ERs, including facility fees, are different from urgent care facilities which offer limited capabilities. In addition, insurance companies determine the out-of-pocket cost their members are charged according to their health care insurance plan.
On 6/13/18, Dignity Health responded to the following 3 On Your Side questions that were asked on 6/8/18:
Are the stand alone “Emergency Rooms” equipped and/or staffed to handle serious trauma cases such as accident or gunshot victims ? In terms of serious trauma, we are equipped to stablize the patient and transport them to the appropriate next level of care for their condition. Dignity Health emergency rooms are staffed by emergency physicians and emergency-trained registered nurses who are trained to diagnose and treat medical emergencies. All Dignity Health emergency rooms are equipped to stabilize the patient and transport to the appropriate next level of care for their individual condition.
Can you provide a base price breakdown for Emergency Rooms Vs. Urgent Care facilities? We do not have pricing broken out by diagnosis and treatment, as that is driven by the patient’s insurance coverage.
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