A $229,000 Medical Bill Goes to Court

by | Apr 20, 2023 | Health

In 2014, Lisa French had spinal surgery. Before the operation, she was told she would have to pay $1,337 in out-of-pocket costs and that her insurance would cover the rest. However, the hospital ended up sending French a bill for $229,000. When she didn’t pay, it sued her.

The case went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. In this episode of “An Arm and a Leg,” host Dan Weissmann finds out how the court ruled and how the decision is reshaping the fine print on hospital bills in ways that could cost patients a lot of money.

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Transcript: A $229,000 Medical Bill Goes to Court

Note: “An Arm and a Leg” uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Dan: Hey there–

Lisa French was a clerk for a trucking company in Denver. She’d been in a car crash, and her doctor told her that to keep her spine stable, she ought to get surgery.

She asked the folks at the hospital what it was gonna cost her, out of pocket. They ran her insurance and told her: Your end is going to be one thousand, three hundred thirty-six dollars, and ninety cents.

She said, thanks.

Then, she and her husband sat down at their kitchen table and talked it over: They had a rainy-day fund. A thousand dollars they’d socked away, they kept it at home, in cash. Were they ready to spend it all for this? 

They decided they were, and Lisa went to the hospital with a thousand dollars cash. 

She had the surgery, it went fine. The hospital had been expecting about 55 thousand dollars from Lisa’s insurance. They actually got more like 74 thousand.

But they decided that wasn’t enough. They decided they wanted their full sticker price: 303 thousand dollars. …

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