Bioethics News

The Company Behind Many Surprise Emergency Room Bills

July 25, 2017

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Before EmCare, about 6 percent of patient visits in the hospital’s emergency room were billed for the most complex, expensive level of care. After EmCare arrived, nearly 28 percent got the highest-level billing code.

On top of that, the hospital, Newport Hospital and Health Services, was getting calls from confused patients who had received surprisingly large bills from the emergency room doctors. Although the hospital had negotiated rates for its fees with many major health insurers, the EmCare physicians were not part of those networks and were sending high bills directly to the patients. For a patient needing care with the highest-level billing code, the hospital’s previous physicians had been charging $467; EmCare’s charged $1,649.

“The billing scenario, that was the real fiasco and caught us off guard,” said Tom Wilbur, the chief executive of Newport Hospital. “Hindsight being 20/20, we never would have done that.” Faced with angry patients, the hospital took back control of its coding and billing.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.