Urgent Care Told Them to Go to the ER and it Cost $2,659

by | Jan 27, 2020 | Ridiculous Healthcare Costs | 0 comments

Patients are frequently told by urgent care facilities to head to the ER if the case is out of their scope- or in this case if they just don’t have the right tool for the job. In this post in our series discussing expensive medical bills, we take a look at a simple procedure that any primary care clinic should be able to do in-office but that ended up costing one family $2,659.

In a recent NPR story, a Las Vegas family shared how their four-year-old got a pair of tiny doll shoes lodged in her nose. This is a great case to discuss as it highlights one of the biggest frustrations of our current health “system” — having to go to a hospital and paying hospital prices for something as simple as a foreign body removal from the nostril.  

It occurred on Saturday, so I suspect they were unable to even contact, never mind see, their regular physician and hence went to urgent care. I am not sure why the urgent care didn’t have forceps long enough for a 4-year-old’s nose, but they didn’t, so off they were instructed to go to the ED. According to the girl’s father, Michael:

…(he) took Lucy to a nearby urgent care center, where the doctors had no more luck with the tweezers — called forceps in medical parlance — they had on hand and suggested he take her to the emergency room. There, a doctor was able to remove the shoe in less than a second, as Michael recalled it, with a longer set of forceps.

Nothing To Sneeze At: $2,659 Bill To Pluck Doll’s Shoe From Girl’s Nose

Things get expensive quickly when you go to the hospital and after a quick visit that didn’t require any labs, imaging, or medication, the doll’s shoe was out of the nose and the family was out $2,659.

It does seem they escaped the dreaded facility fee, or the cost could have been substantially more. And at least the physician fee was reduced — but only after asking. Since they’re on a high-deductible plan, the entire bill was out of pocket. 

What happens if a Mission Direct Primary Care member has a doll shoe up their nose after hours?

It is simple, with a Mission Direct Primary Care Membership, the family would call their physician, even after hours. Together they would develop a plan and determine that the doll shoe needed to come out, and set up a time to come to the clinic and get it removed quickly. There would have been no cost for the visit and removal as it is included in the membership — so they would have saved almost all of their yearly membership fee for the entire family by avoiding this trip to the urgent care and ER.  

Of course, it is always my recommendation to not put toys in your (or anyone else’s) nose or ears. But as my son taught me years ago- sometimes kids just have to see where tiny toys might fit. No matter when that happens we will be there for our members.

John Hallgren, M.D.

John Hallgren, M.D. is the co-founder of Mission Direct Primary Care in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences medical school in 1995 and has been a board-certified family physician since completing residency in 1998. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and has been an assistant professor of family medicine for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Uniformed Services University. He has several publications in such journals as American Family Physician and The Journal of Family Practice.

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