Couple say they were overcharged on hospital bill

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PHOENIX -- A Valley man and his wife say they were overcharged on their hospital bill and the hospital won't correct it.

Jay and Patti Farrell got a bill for around $1,500. That bill came from a hospital and it was supposed to be what they owed after their insurance company paid its share, but the couple seem to think they were overcharged.

Jay Farrell likes to tinker with his old car he bought years ago, but tinkering means putting money into it.

But for the last several months, instead of putting money into his hot rod, they have been sending checks to Banner Desert Medical Center where Jay had thyroid surgery last year, a surgery he thought was considered "outpatient" surgery.

"That's what they told us upfront, that 'you would be an outpatient' and that's why I did it," Jay said. "I figured, well, it would be pretty simple, just get it done."

Jay's surgery went well and even though his insurance company picked up the majority of the bill, the portion that he and his wife were responsible for was around $1,500.

"I was shocked," Patti said. "I thought, 'Man, the prices have really gone up for outpatient.'"

It turns out Banner Desert Medical Center billed Jay and his wife for inpatient surgery, which they believe is not only incorrect, but the couple believe inpatient surgery drove up their out-of-pocket costs.

Their doctor even wrote letters to the hospital saying, based on his hospital orders, he believed the bill was wrong, but Patti says the letters fell on deaf ears.

"Actually, when he wrote the letters, the hospital said they never received them and when I called the hospital they said they didn't have it," Patti said.

Frustrated, Jay and Patti contacted 3 On Your Side.

"I want you guys to find out for me if this is really what I owe," Patti said. "I don't think we do. Everything we were told said this was supposed to be an outpatient stay."

Banner Desert Medical Center tells 3 On Your Side they reviewed Jay's bill and determined the charges were correct.

They went on to say that if Jay and Patti believe their out-of-pocket costs are too high, that's an issue they should take up with their insurance carrier.

Jay and Patti say they will and hope that based on their experience, they won't have to endure any more surgeries.

"I am very skeptical now, very skeptical," Patti said.

Again, Banner says the bill is correct and they provided 3 On Your Side with this written statement:

In the hospital setting, inpatient and outpatient stays are not determined by the number of hours a patient spends in the hospital, but by the physician orders provided as part of the patient record.

The physician can change those orders at any time during the patient’s stay, if he or she is doing better than expected or needs additional recovery time. Once the patient is discharged though, it is not our policy to recast a hospital stay under a different billing code.

Following a request from the patient, and again following a request from KTVK Channel 3, we reviewed Mr. Farrell's record to determine whether an error had been made. We regret any concerns or misunderstandings, but find that the billing in this case meets with our own policy and the national regulatory guidelines that direct how hospital bills are established.

Jennifer Pool
East Valley Regional PR Director, Banner Health
Banner Desert Medical Center
Cardon Children's Medical Center
1400 South Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85282