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Bill Of The Month

About two months after undergoing open-heart surgery, Sara England's infant son, Amari Vaca, was sick and struggling to breathe. Staff members at a local medical center in Salinas, California, arranged for him to be transferred to a different hospital via air ambulance. Kevin Painchaud/Kevin Painchaud hide caption

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Kevin Painchaud/Kevin Painchaud

A mom's $97,000 question: How was an air-ambulance ride not medically necessary?

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The $81,739.40 bill for her mother's air-ambulance ride arrived less than two weeks after she died, Alicia Wieberg said. Lisa Krantz/KFF Health News hide caption

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Lisa Krantz/KFF Health News

Her air-ambulance ride wasn't covered by Medicare. It will cost her family $81,739

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Chantal Panozzo and her husband, who live in the Chicago suburbs, expected their first routine colonoscopies would be free — fully covered by insurance as preventive care under federal law. Taylor Glascock/KFF Health News hide caption

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Taylor Glascock/KFF Health News

The colonoscopies were free but the 'surgical trays' came with $600 price tags

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Last year, Elyse Greenblatt of New York City scheduled a telehealth appointment through her usual health system to see if her nagging congestion was COVID-19. The appointment turned out to be nearly $700. Shelby Knowles/KFF Health News hide caption

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Shelby Knowles/KFF Health News

When a quick telehealth visit yields multiple surprises beyond a big bill

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Reesha Ahmed of Venus, Texas, was billed nearly $2,400 for standard blood tests following her first prenatal checkup. Nitashia Johnson/KFF Health News hide caption

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Nitashia Johnson/KFF Health News

Christine Rogers of Wake Forest, North Carolina, was asked to complete a mental health questionnaire as part of her annual physical. A brief conversation with her doctor landed her with a charge for a separate consultation. Kate Medley/KFF Health News hide caption

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Kate Medley/KFF Health News

She talked about depression at a checkup — and got billed for two visits

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Emily Gebel was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2022. After Gebel moved her treatment from Seattle to Alaska, where she lived, she discovered it was priced much higher in her home state. Ash Adams/KFF Health News hide caption

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Ash Adams/KFF Health News

She received chemo in two states. Why did it cost so much more in Alaska?

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Matt Kile for KFF Health News

She paid her husband's hospital bill. A year after his death, they wanted more money

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Thomas Greene with his wife, Bluizer, at their home in Oxford, Pennsylvania. After Thomas had a procedure on his leg, the anesthesia providers billed Medicare late, and he was sent to collections for the debt. Rosem Morton/KFF Health News hide caption

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Rosem Morton/KFF Health News

They billed Medicare late for his anesthesia. He went to collections for a $3,000 tab

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Bridget Narsh at her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Narsh's son has autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD. In 2020, he spent more than 100 days at Central Regional Hospital, a state-run mental health facility. The state billed the family nearly $102,000 for the hospitalizations. Eamon Queeney/KFF Health News hide caption

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Eamon Queeney/KFF Health News

Bethany Birch paid more than $5,200 toward her medical debt after getting sued by Ballad Health in 2018. Owing to a Tennessee court judgment, she accrued an additional $2,700 in interest over that time. Maddy Alewine/KFF Health News hide caption

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Maddy Alewine/KFF Health News

The hospital bills didn't find her, but a lawsuit did — plus interest

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After emergency surgery, an American expatriate with Swiss insurance now carries the baggage of a five-figure bill. Aria Konishi/KFF Health News hide caption

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Aria Konishi/KFF Health News

He visited the U.S. for his daughter's wedding — and left with a $42,000 medical bill

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When she was pregnant with her twins, Sara Walsh was diagnosed with a serious complication and had to pay thousands upfront before a specialist would see her. Zack Wittman/KFF Health News hide caption

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Zack Wittman/KFF Health News

She was pregnant and had to find $15,000 overnight to save her twins

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A billing mistake by an in-network Florida emergency room landed Sara McLin's then-4-year-old son in collections. Zack Wittman/KHN hide caption

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Zack Wittman/KHN

Pay up, kid? An ER's error sends a 4-year-old to collections

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Brenna Kearney plays with her daughter, Joey, at home in Chicago. When Kearney was pregnant, she developed a rare type of preeclampsia and had to undergo an emergency cesarean section. Joey was discharged after a 36-day stay in the NICU. Taylor Glascock for KHN hide caption

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Taylor Glascock for KHN

A baby spent 36 days at an in-network hospital. Why did her parents get a huge bill?

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In 2013, Grace E. Elliott spent a night in a hospital in Florida for a kidney infection that was treated with antibiotics. Eight years later, she got a large bill from the health system that bought the hospital. This bill was for an unrelated surgical procedure she didn't need and never received. It was a case of mistaken identity, she knew, but proving that wasn't easy. Shelby Knowles for KHN hide caption

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Shelby Knowles for KHN

The case of the two Grace Elliotts: a medical bill mystery

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Jerry Bilinski, a retired social worker who lives in Fayetteville, N.C., says he deserves a full explanation from his medical team of what led to a small gash on his forehead during his surgery for a cataract. Eamon Queeney for KHN hide caption

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Eamon Queeney for KHN

He woke up from eye surgery with a gash on his forehead. What happened?

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Paul Hinds has navigated the financial maze of health care during treatment for prostate cancer with the help of his girlfriend, Dr. Josie Tenore. Taylor Glascock/Taylor Glascock hide caption

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Taylor Glascock/Taylor Glascock

It cost $38,398 for a single shot of a very old cancer drug

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After Frankie Cook's car accident on a wet road outside Rome, Ga., her father, Russell (right), got a lawyer's letter saying they owed a hospital emergency room more than $17,000 for scans and an exam to see if she had a concussion. Audra Melton for KHN hide caption

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Audra Melton for KHN

Dani Yuengling of Conway, South Carolina, knew she had to follow up after a mammogram found a lump. Her mom had died of breast cancer. But she had no idea how expensive the biopsy would be. Gavin McIntyre for KHN hide caption

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Gavin McIntyre for KHN

An $18,000 biopsy? Paying cash might have been cheaper than using her insurance

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