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Hospitals Are Refusing to Do Surgeries Unless You Pay In Full First

Heather Miconi has seven weeks to come up with $2,000 to pay for surgery her daughter needs to breathe more easily.
Merritt Island Surgery Center in Merritt Island, Fla., billed Miconi in advance of the adenoid and tonsil surgery. If she can’t pay for the surgery before it is scheduled to take place next month, the procedure will be put off.

Miconi, whose insurance won’t cover the cost because she has a high deductible, works three jobs and doesn’t have savings to cover the cost. She is now appealing to strangers through a GoFundMe campaign for help.
For years, hospitals and surgery centers waited to perform procedures before sending bills to patients. That often left them chasing after patients for payment, repeatedly sending invoices and enlisting debt collectors.


Now, more hospitals and surgery centers are demanding patients pay in advance.

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Advance billing helps the facilities avoid hounding patients to settle up. Yet it is distressing patients who must come up with thousands of dollars while struggling with serious conditions.
Those who can’t come up with the sums have been forced to put off procedures. Some who paid up discovered later they were overcharged, then had to fight for refunds.

Among the procedures that hospitals and surgery centers are seeking prepayments for are knee replacements, CT scans and births.
Merritt Island first provided Miconi an estimate for $3,000 forth treatment for her daughter, Trista Churchwell. It then lowered the estimate to $2,000 because she had already paid down some of her deductible.

When she got the first estimate, Miconi figured “there’s no way” she would be able to afford the procedure. Miconi, who lives with her daughter in Merritt Island, processes medical records, delivers food on weekends and helps cater meals to make a living.

“I can’t even provide for my daughter to get surgery for her to be able to breathe,” she recalled feeling.

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The surgery would improve her daughter’s breathing by reducing obstructions such as adenoids, tonsils and bony nose structures called turbinates.

Merritt Island Surgery Center is jointly owned by physicians and SCA Health, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth’s health-services arm Optum. “Before providing care, Merritt Island Surgery Center engages each of our patients individually to ensure they understand their potential out-of-pocket costs and are aware of available no-cost financing options,” the center said.

Federal law requires hospitals to take care of people in an emergency. Hospitals say they don’t turn away patients who need medical care urgently for lack of prepayment.
Some 23% of what patients owe is collected by hospitals before treatment, according to an analysis of first-quarter data this year from 1,850 hospitals by Kodiak Solutions, a healthcare consulting and software company.


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