Frank Santino went to the emergency room to get treated for an eye wound. He left with a prescription drug that came with a hefty price tag. Santino said he was shocked when he saw the charge on his hospital bill.
“I feel like I am being taken advantage of,” Santino told us.
His overall bill cost more than $2,700 out of pocket after insurance. But, $1,943 of the bill was for a small bottle of eye drops.
“They gave me some antibiotics and a bottle of Cipro and to use the bottle up over the course of ten days,” Santino said.
“I figured I would be charged a premium for it but the insurance would pay for it,” he said. “But what I wasn’t expecting was that it was an almost $2,000 bottle of eye drops.”
He told us if he picked up the prescription at a pharmacy he would have paid much less.
NBC 6 Responds found out he was right. We called three local pharmacies closest to NBC 6 to find out how much we would pay that late September day without insurance for the same bottle of eye drops.
We were quoted prices between $38.95 and $49.99.
Bruce Rueben with the Florida Hospital Association says patients seeing higher prices for medicine in the emergency room is not uncommon.
“Those who have private insurance have to pick up the cost of those who have no insurance,” Rueben told us.
More than 2 million people don’t have health insurance in Florida.
But, he stresses the price on the bill is not necessarily what the hospital will get paid after negotiations with the patient’s insurance company.
“So the charge master is not even close in most cases to what the hospital will actually be paid,” said Rueben.
So, how can patients avoid being shocked when they get their bill?
Attorney Carlos Arce says it comes down to knowing the details of your insurance plan and planning ahead when you can.
“Look at the website, see what the posting are regarding bills, if they are not posted call the hospital, and say I am going to have some treatment there, how much is this going to cost me,” Arce said.
He says communicating with the health care provider after you get the bill can help too.
“You have the opportunity to negotiate and say listen I can’t pay this can we come up with a payment plan,” said Arce.
Santino said he tried to negotiate his bill down but it didn’t work.
“They said we have researched it and the price is the price,” Santino told us.
After insurance, he ended up paying $725 out of pocket for the hospital visit including the prescription.
The hospital he went to told us in a statement that it “provides patients with access to a variety of financial assistance opportunities ranging from charity care programs for families in need to financial assistance programs, including payment plans and additional discounts based on their personal financial situation.”