Family gets bill for $25K MRI scan

By staff writers

October 17, 2017 -- A California family received a $25,000 bill for an MRI scan in a case held out as an example of out-of-control medical costs in the U.S. in an article published October 16 by Vox.

The article describes the case of Elodie Fowler, a 3-year-old girl who received an MRI scan last year at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, CA. Fowler has a genetic condition that had caused swelling on one side of her body.

Fowler's parents had the family covered under an Obamacare exchange program, but they decided to have the scan for Elodie performed outside of their network due to her genetic condition. As a result, their plan would only cover half of the "fair price" of an MRI scan.

Her parents were expecting a bill for several thousand dollars, but they were "shocked" when a bill came for $25,000. The bill included more than $1,500 in charges for laboratory costs, more than $4,000 in charges for anesthesia costs, and more than $2,700 in charges for recovery room costs.

However, the largest component of the bill by far was for MRI -- over $16,600 in charges. Insurance covered just $1,500, leaving the Fowlers on the hook for nearly $24,000 in medical expenses.

Representatives for the hospital defended the charges, stating that costs can vary based on local market conditions and that the hospital provides specialty care to sick children. Fowler's parents negotiated the cost down to $16,000 and are paying the bill in $700 monthly installments.

Elodie Fowler's scan is a textbook example of a U.S. healthcare system with exorbitant costs and opaque pricing, according to Sarah Kliff, the Vox healthcare reporter who wrote the story. The passage of the Affordable Care Act did little to control prices, as it was mostly targeted at helping consumers pay for care through subsidies.

Kliff said Vox is launching a new project to track out-of-control medical costs, and she asked readers to send in their horror stories of bills like the one Elodie Fowler's parents received.

Copyright © 2017
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