When Does ER Visit Billing Begin

(WSVN) - Odds are you have been to the emergency room to get help … but a question has popped up. When do you start getting billed — when you register, when you see a doctor? It’s a question one South Florida woman had after she went to the ER, didn’t get help and still got a bill. And it’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Kadisha and her husband opened a marine air conditioning business, and are doing it the right way … slow and steady.

Kadisha Silburn, fighting ER bill: “Still small. We are trying to expand a little bit more but we just bought the building, so we are staking it stage by stage.”

Being your own boss can be great. And of course, can also create headache.

Kadisha Silburn: “I had a headache for like three days. I checked my pressure, it was high that day. That morning when I got up, my face felt all numb.”

On the third day of the headache, Kadisha’s husband convinced her to go to the emergency room.

Kadisha Silburn: “Gave them my info, they gave me a wrist band, told me to wait in the lobby until my name was called.”

That was at 11 a.m. An hour later, a nurse brought her to a room.

Kadisha Silburn: “She said, ‘From one to 10, what’s the headache like?’ I said 11. She said, ‘OK, I’m going to take your pressure.’ She took my pressure and then she tells me ‘OK wait back into the lobby until my name is called.'”

The clock kept ticking. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 o’clock. Kadisha’s head was killing her and she asked again, “When can I see a doctor?”

Kadisha Silburn: “‘We had a lot of emergency coming in, you just got to wait.'”

Six hours of waiting was enough. Kadisha left. Her headache eventually went away, and then a bill appeared for her emergency room visit.

Kadisha Silburn: “$720. I should frame that wrist band, $720 for just sitting for six hours.”

There were no details of what the bill was for … just the total, so she called the hospital.

Kadisha Silburn: “So why am I getting a bill? She said her exact words were, ‘That is what you get when you come to the ER.'”

Kadisha countered…

Kadisha Silburn: “I didn’t see a doctor. I didn’t go to the back or anything like that. The only one I saw was the nurse that took the pressure. That was it.”

The hospital wouldn’t wipe out the bill. Kadisha wouldn’t pay it, giving each of them a headache.

Kadisha Silburn: “People really wanna find out when we come to the ER, when we start to get billed.”

Well Howard, it’s a medical issue that needs a legal answer. What is it?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “As soon as the nurse or doctor provides a medical service, they can begin billing. Does a nurse taking your blood pressure and asking about your headache qualify as a service? Yes. But the fee has to be reasonable and the service has to be described in the bill. It was not in this case and as a lawyer, I would argue that the $700 fee is unreasonable.”

We contacted Broward Health. And asked a spokesperson when you walk into an emergency room, at what point do they start billing. We were told when an assessment is made.

When was asked what specifically was considered an assessment, we could not get a definitive answer…

But good news for Kadisha … Broward Health looked into her emergency room visit and wiped out her $700 bill.

Kadisha Silburn: “Now I can focus on my business and my family.”

Go back to growing their business … after getting rid of her ER bill.

Kadisha Silburn: “I’m happy that Help Me Howard resolved this for me, so I don’t have to deal with the headache anymore. Thank you very much Help Me Howard.”

Glad we could help. And we learned something about ER visits at the same time.

And a note … just because you get a bill from a doctor, a hospital or other health care provider does not mean you have to pay that amount. There could be mistakes, overcharges, things like that. Read the bill. If you don’t understand a charge, ask questions and dispute it if you find something you disagree with.

A problem giving you a real headache? Ready for some relief? Don’t wait. Contact us. We will treat it like an emergency and give you our assessment … for free.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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