Not long ago, a relative called us for advice about a hospital bill. A public interest lawyer in New York, he had developed chest pain when exercising and consulted his internist, who ordered a stress test with an echocardiogram. To his relief, no abnormalities were found. Distress came later, when he saw that the hospital had charged some $8,000 for this test. Despite having excellent insurance, he was informed that he was responsible for $2,000 of the total.
The bill seemed exorbitant to us, and we suggested that he contact other medical centers in the city to find out what they would charge for the same examination. To his surprise, he discovered that prices ranged from about $1,200 to $6,000. When he called the billing office at the hospital where his test was performed and asked why the echocardiogram was priced at such a high level, he did not receive a clear answer. Frustrated, he informed the hospital that he declined to pay. This resulted in several veiled threats, but he countered that he would contact the attorney general of New York about what he believed was abusive pricing without justification. After much back-and-forth, his internist intervened on his behalf, and the hospital dropped the demand for the $2,000 difference.
– The New York Review of Books