Consumers Are Fighting Back Against Outrageous Hospital Bills
In today’s healthcare world, the cost to keep you alive can be crippling. Wanda Wickizer learned that the hard way.
The 51-year-old was rushed to the hospital on Christmas Day in 2013 after a blood vessel in her brain burst. Because she was a single mom working part-time to raise two children on her own, she previously decided to forgo health insurance because she felt she couldn’t afford it.
But after being released from the hospital after 15 days, Wickizer was shocked to learn that her medical expenses totaled $500,000.
“The bills started coming in, we’d open them and it was just like unbelievable. I mean the helicopter was $50,000,” said Wickizer to Good Morning America. “I cried a lot … I couldn’t pay all these bills and they kept saying, ‘Well, you have to,’ We were never asking for me not to pay anything. I just wanted to pay what I had, what was fair.”
Elizabeth Rosenthal, author of the new book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, said cases like Wickizer’s are a perfect example that the American healthcare system has been hijacked by greed and doesn’t have the best interest of patients in mind. However, she said patients do have a responsibility in this.
“Patients don’t speak up, don’t assert their needs. Patients have been complacent,” she said. “[What] every patient should know is you have power, you have control. Don’t just write a check.”
Rosenthal encouraged patients to speak up and take control of the care they receive. She said consumers should ask doctors what specific procedures will cost, demand in-network facilities are used and request an itemized bill.
There are benefits to taking a stand. After two years of fighting with insurance companies, Wickizer was able to receive an undisclosed settlement.