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$5,600 bill for small infection on finger shocks Sebastian man

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Posted at 6:58 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 04:13:17-05

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — A small infection on his finger resulted in a $5,612 bill to Terry Collins’ insurance.

“Total shock! Like, what?” Collins said.

Collins served as a nurse in the military for many years.

“I’m proud of the service I did,” Collins said. “I’ve taken care of a lot of people who have served in war, and I always found that very rewarding.”

In June it was time for someone else to take care of him.

“On a Sunday, it really started hurting,” Collins said about the small infection on his finger.

“We’re talking probably an eighth of an inch.”

Since it was a Sunday, he went to his closest emergency room.

“They’ll just lance it, drain it, which they did, and that will be it,” Collins said.

He didn’t expect the bill that followed.

“This isn’t a biggie,” Collins said. “This isn’t major surgery. This isn’t trauma work. This is just a little infection.”

Sebastian River Medical Center billed Collins’ insurance $5,612, including $2,158 for an x-ray of his finger.

The hospital charged his insurance $2,476 for the use of the ER room.

“If they had told me, ‘Oh by the way this room is going to cost you’ - maybe I’ll go someplace else, OK?” Collins said.

But hospitals don’t tell you. They bill a charge just for walking into an ER.

Depending on the severity and complexity of the case, they charge different prices, from the lowest level one to a level five.

How do they determine which code to pick for you? It turns out there are no federal guidelines. For the same injury, two hospitals could charge you for different levels.

In Collins’ case, the hospital billed his insurance for a level three for a small infection on his finger.

“This doesn’t make any sense to me,” Collins said. “This is outrageous. This is wrong.”

The hospital also charged $259 for a tetanus shot and then an additional $220 for the administration of that shot. All in, Sebastian River Medical charged $480 for something that costs less than $50 at Walgreens.

“These bills are outrageous,” Collins said.

Collins’ insurance paid for most of it, but he’s still left with a $781 bill.

“That to me is a lot of money,” Collins said. “This is wrong. The point is, it (health care) shouldn’t bankrupt you.”

He said he is scared if something was to really go wrong, and he would need to be airlifted.

“I need to put a thing on ‘do not air vac me.’ I’m 73 years old. I’m not going to worry if I don’t make it. But I don’t want my family stuck with that sort of bill.”

Reporter: “But isn’t that horrible that we have to think that way?”

“Right. It is wrong that we as a society do not think in terms of really doing the best for the people.”

Collins is drawing attention to what he sees as an injustice, serving his country again as he did all those years ago.
He says he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“No ma’am,” Collins said “I’m no hero. I did my job. Now, my cousin, he served in Vietnam. He was like my brother. Did I consider him a hero? Yes.”

Sebastian River Medical Center declined to comment.

Experts say consider going to an urgent clinic instead of an emergency room if the injury isn’t severe. Urgent clinics are typically a lot cheaper than emergency rooms.

If you have to go to an emergency room, check prices for the different emergency room levels beforehand.