Patient, BBB seek change with Emergency Room "hidden charges"

- Hidden charges at emergency rooms are causing transparency questions to be raised.

"Any other form of purchasing, people know what they're paying," patient Steve Komito said. "Somehow if you're in the emergency room, you don't have to know and I'm saying that's wrong."

Komito took his son to the Carolinas Healthcare Systems Emergency Room in Waxhaw this past Spring. X-rays were done but when Komito received his bill, he noticed a "room charge" for $1,244.44. Komito said, had he known about that charge up front, he would have taken his son elsewhere -- adding, the X-rays were not even conducted in that general service room and they could have waited elsewhere.

"I guess my mission at this point is transparency," Komito said.

Komito said, during his visit, someone with the E.R. told him they will not give pricing ahead of a visit because if the patient determines it's too expensive and leaves -- the E.R. will be held liable if something were to happen with their health.

The Better Business Bureau said it receives roughly 1,000 complaints a year for situations like this in the Greater Charlotte region.

"It's not like going into a fast-food restaurant and seeing prices up on the board," BBB's Tom Bartholomy said.

FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to Carolinas Healthcare Systems earlier this Spring with a list of billing questions that have still not been answered. We sent them an email again on Friday and are waiting for a response. Here's a portion of the email...

1.       Will Carolinas Healthcare System give pricing information prior to service at the Emergency Room, upon request?

2.       Does CHS stand behind this standard room charge and policy? When did this charge go into effect?

3.       We’ve heard talks about Level 3 and Level 4 E.R. room visit cases. What are the specific levels and what determines one of these levels?

4.       What goes into the room charge? Is there a time limit a person has to be in there for a charge? A specific procedure? Does a doctor have to physically examine them? What warrants this charge?

5.       Does CHS maintain that it will not release pricing prior to an E.R. patient being seen because it can be held negligent if the patients decides the cost is  too high, and leaves without treatment?

FOX 46 Charlotte has now reached out to State Senator Tommy Tucker (Komito's district) to see if he would be interested in any sort of legislation surrounding hospital charges being disclosed up front. Here's a portion of that email...

 Would Sen. Tucker support legislation demanding immediate transparency of ER pricing? As these bills are broken down into "Levels" -- why can't a patient know ahead of time the approximate costs of his service?

 *This obviously does not include any additional testing that may be ordered or needed. But again, these prices - all pricing - is slotted ahead of time.

The Better Business Bureau told FOX 46 Charlotte there needs to be more transparency between E.R.'s and patients.

"If there's going to be a basic charge for you for being in that emergency room no matter what you're there for, then, yeah, why not?" Bartholomy added.


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