Dr. Sara McLin thought she made the right choice by going to an in-network emergency room near her Florida home after her 4-year-old burned his hand on a stove last Memorial Day weekend.
Her family is insured through her husband’s employer, HCA Healthcare, a Nashville-based health system that operates more hospitals than any other system in the nation. So McLin knew that a nearby stand-alone emergency room, HCA Florida Lutz Emergency, would be in their plan’s provider network.
But McLin said a doctor there told her she couldn’t treat her son, Keeling, because he had second- and third-degree burns that needed a higher level of care. The doctor referred them to the burn center at HCA Florida Blake Hospital, about a 90-minute drive away.
McLin, who is a dentist, said the doctor told her the stand-alone ER would not charge for the visit because they did not provide treatment.
“I don’t remember exactly how she phrased it. But something along the lines of, ‘Well, we won’t even call this a visit, because we can’t do anything,’” McLin said.
At Blake Hospital, she said, a doctor diagnosed Keeling with a second-degree burn, drained the blisters, bandaged his hand, and sent them home with instructions on how to care for the wound.
“I didn’t think anything more of it,” McLin said.
Then the bills came.
The Patient: Keeling McLin, now 5, is covered by UnitedHealthcare through his father’s employer.
Medical Service: At the stand-alone emergency room, a physician assessed Keeling and sent him to another facility for treatment. “Keeling needs a burn center,” the doctor wrote in the record of his visit.
Service Provider: Envision Physician Services, which employed the emergency room …