Woman Shocked by Bill at Freestanding ER

Rachael Stamatyades knew something wasn't right.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and it was really bad," she said.

A sore throat - so painful - she went to the closest emergency room, where she says a doctor quickly made a diagnosis.

"He said, 'Oh, it looks like strep.' And I said, 'Are you gonna do a swab?' And he said, 'No. If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's a duck,'" Rachael said.

They gave her a penicillin shot and an ibuprofen pill and sent her home. It wasn't until weeks later - when the bills started coming - that Rachael realized the cost of that care.

"It feels like a waste of money," she told us as she became emotional thinking of the financial burden her young family is now facing.

"I've had my appendix taken out and [sic] wasn't even cost this much," she said.

According to an itemized statement for the visit, Rachael was billed more than $800 for the antibiotic and nearly $60 for the ibuprofen. The hour she says she spent at the Westside Regional Medical Center freestanding emergency room in Davie cost her $3,233.10.

"Honesty, I don't even feel it would have been worth $250, which is what I was thinking I was going to have to pay," Rachael said. "Maybe if one test was given or something, maybe I could see why they would want to inflate something. But nothing was given. I could have had anybody shine a flashlight down my throat and tell me it's something."

After the NBC 6 Responds team got involved, Rachael says Westside Regional Medical Center agreed to reduce the facility bill by 50% from $2,073 to $1,036.50.

"It's definitely a big help," Rachael said.

But the 24-year-old is still responsible for the doctor's full bill - $1,160.10.

The billing code used for the visit was for "a problem of high severity" and a spokesperson for the doctor's group says their review of Rachael's chart verified the accuracy of that code.

In a statement, she said it's important to remember that Rachael "...was treated at a free-standing Emergency Department, which does have higher costs in general than Urgent Care Centers or Primary Care Clinics, because of the higher level of staffing and equipment required ..."

Now Rachael and her husband are trying to figure out how to pay the remaining balance so they don't harm their credit and their dream of one day buying a home.

"It's caused us to have to save more, budget more, even more so than we already have," she said.

Rachael has a high-deductible insurance plan, so her upfront costs are higher than she was expecting. It's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with your insurance policy before you need to use it.

If you'd like to get an idea of the average cost for medical care in your area and a description of a billing code, click here to visit fairhealthconsumer.org.

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