Trauma Fees Hike Up Already Expensive Medical Bills
You’re responsible with your finances. You don’t make bad credit decisions and you pay your bills. And then it hits you—a medical emergency or illness. Now, you’ve got a lot of debt that you can’t pay. But according to a recent report, the news is even worse, because hospitals are apparently trying to make people’s medical bills even worse than they already are.
Imposition of Trauma Fees
A recent report revealed a hospital practice of imposing so-called “trauma fees” onto patients’ already exorbitant medical bills and fees. The report revealed that one hospital charged an extra $8,928, not for medical care, or some procedure. Rather, just as an added on “trauma fee.” Supposedly, the additional cost was for the hospital’s need to obtain top doctors and specialists that are often needed with the most injured patients.
The report went on to note that these kinds of fees aren’t a once-in-a-while type thing. And in some cases, this trauma fee can inflate a medical bill by $15,000.
Here in Florida alone, these kinds of fees were charged over 13,000 times in 2019. In some cases, the patient was outpatient—that is, no overnight stay was even needed. The trauma fee is added onto, and in addition to, whatever the “normal” hospital bills are.
Use of Fees is Increasing
Although these trauma fees have always been assessed, since 2014, the number of times these fees have been added onto a patient’s bill has doubled. There is no evidence that the extra charge actually is attached to more, better, or more effective medical care or attention. Critics say these charges are nothing more than a way for hospitals to make more money.
Hospitals argue that they need a top team of physicians at the ready, and at a moment’s notice, when an ambulance approaches with a patient who may need such care. They say that they only respond to what first responders tell them. If responders indicate a trauma situation in need of specialists, the hospitals call the appropriate professionals, and charge accordingly.
Challenging Medical Expenses
In some cases, people are starting to challenge the necessity of these trauma fees in court. Certainly, there are situations where the charges may be exorbitant. But although medical bills can be challenged, they are difficult cases to win, which is why people who face significant medical bills and expenses, may be better served with a bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy doesn’t care about whether a charge is for care, trauma, or some other charge assessed by a hospital. Medical bills are unsecured—much like a credit card. They are fully dischargeable in bankruptcy, and hospitals can do little to stop you from wiping out their charges. Your medical providers cannot “punish” you for wiping out their bills in bankruptcy.