St. Francis Hospital: The real cost of having a baby

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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65 Responses

  1. Marcia says:

    I am in a similar situation and I’m not sure if I will win but I’m going to try. I was due to have surgery on December 8th. I went to pre-register and to pay my portion of the bill. The clerk said she had talked to my insurance company and that my portion would be almost $400.00. I askd if she was sure because just two days earlier I had been told that my portion would be a little over $900.00. She said she was sure. I finished signing the papers and again I asked if she was sure, she said she was definately sure. I paid her the amount she asked for and thought that was that. I had the surgery, routine, no complications and went home before noon the next day.
    I got a bill for close to $500.00 from the hospital. I called them and then called my insurance company. I called the hospital back and asked for a itemized statement. I got it and called questioning some of the charges, like medication I never got. That was two weeks ago when I was told that they would check into the charges for me. Today I got another phone call from the hospital billing office asking if I wanted to pay the $1100.00 I owed right then or arrange for payments.
    I asked her why the orignal bill was for less that half that and I was told that when they re-looked at my bill at my request they found more things that I should have been charged for.
    I am going to fight this. What other place does anyone do business with that the amount they are charged isn’t known until after the service has been performed.

  2. kas says:

    Otis:

    I hope you don’t accept Jeff Phillip’s offer. He can’t think of a valid legal reason to sue the hospital, but is willing to waste everyone’s time so the hospital is out $10,000 in legal fees. This is a great example of why the US Healthcare System is broken.

    My advise to you – choose better friends.

  3. Georgia says:

    I have to say that right at the outset of your story, it seemed like you had made a couple big mistakes. First of all, not having maternity insurance, knowing that you plan on having a baby? I know you said you wanted to save and grow your money in the bank, and that makes sense, but if you’re going to turn down insurance you ought to make sure that you will actually still be saving money this way, even if you end up with the highest possible cost from the hospital. Secondly, I am sorry but I don’t think it was smart for you to pay the bill beforehand. If you have ever spent any time in a hospital before, you know that after your visit they will send you bill after incomprehensible bill, and you might still be getting them a year later. The costs are not set in stone. Yeah it would be great for everybody if they were, but it just does not work like that. And also, hospitals seem to have horrible bookkeeping. I was actually surprised that they didn’t lose track of your payment entirely. So to ask for an exact price and pay upfront seems incredibly risky with that amount of money, and because of the other random costs you are going to have more bills coming to you later anyway. Lastly, that 1500$ bill did sound unfair. However, you did all you could with it, it’s time to just pay it and move on with your life. You have a healthy baby, your wife had a great birth and is also healthy, it is not worth stressing everybody out about this extra 1500$. And anyway, the national average for natural childbirth is around 10000$ in a hospital anyway, if you had panned for that at the outset you would have had more than enough money to begin with.

    I

  4. SAL says:

    Gosh, I thought I had problems with ST Francis insurance, of course but it was mild considering what Otis went through and others too.
    I was to have a procedure done (MRI) and everything was set up. Later, on the same day, I got a call from the billing dept at ST Francis stating that my supplemental insurance would not cover any charges that were left over after Medicare paid their 80% because they did not have a contract with the my supplemental carrier. They asked if I would be liable for the balance. I was shocked by that revelation as I had not had any problem ever in the past with my insurances. (Medicare is primary meaning a contract is only necessary with them, and therefore, the supplement insurance is not an issue.) St. Francis even agreed to set up the MRI with a provider that would pay, etc. Before I realized what I was saying, I agreed. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I had just come from meeting with the Xray tech, etc who read my biopsy of the right breast, which found a cancerous lesion that needed surgery. So, I was under duress, to say the least.

    After trying to rationalize about what the person was saying about insurance, I called my Supplemental insurance and asked them about paying and they said that I had received incorrect information from St FRancis. So, I immediately called back to ST Francis and told them to keep everything scheduled as is. I even talked with other personnel at St Francis billing and they all agreed with what I was told the first time, that it might not pay.

    I signed consent forms anytime I had any procedure done at ST Francis which includes a statement that I will pay any balance if any that is left over when everything is said and done. In this case they haven’t even submitted the bill and they don’t know if my supplemental insurance will pay so how can they ask me to pay prior to any procedure????

    I’m wondering how many other patients have Medicare as primary with supplemental insurance, etc. that have received similar advice from St. Francis.

    Oh, yes, I want to say I agree with others who St Francis was about charity, etc. Ha Ha to that. They intend to get every dime owed them.

    I, too agree that their other employees, nurses, aids, etc are wonderful and are very kind to patients.

    tnx

  5. keith mckelvey m.d. says:

    sorry to hear of all this pain associated with a beautiful time, your sons birth. i did not read any comments in my brief scanning of it all about the -massive inflation of charges- made by the doctors labs and facilities to compensate for all the discounts demanded by the insurance companies. if you read all your eob’s (explanation of benefits) forms from your health ins company you will frequently see a bill for things like a single blood test costing $816 !!!! only to then see the disallowed charge or negotiated discount to the ins. company to be say $644 (this actual event seen by me this week for my own illness) and on the flip side as a medical doctor i have seen my bill sent to the insurance/medicare companies -for a nerve block i have provided that took time and skill and years of training- cut from $350 to $70 or less – but the worst part is that the working people without health ins (who can afford it nowadays??) think and are expected to pay the full inflated price!!!! no discount off the top for you some people who can afford health insurance premiums cannot renew their coverage due to big big increases the next year at renewal due to an illness/cancer etc diagnosed and treated the year before the whole system is a mess is broken i knew the system was broken the day i had a patient without health insurance even tho she was a school teacher and her husband held down two jobs to make ends meet and yet they could not afford the insurance one day a front page article in the news paper said that greenville memorial had increased it’s room rates but the increase would only affect 20% of the patients as – 50% of the patients were medicare/medicaid and those gov programs paid only what they were going to pay without regard to true cost and 30% were charity care that paid nothing – that just left that 20% who had insurance or worse yet had some little money say a tax refund that the hospital could get ahold of and raise it’s fees upon like a vulture on a hounded starving animal. it is not that the hospital or doctor or lab testing center or drug company or even insurance company is evil they are all having employees and overhead to pay(tho the upper upper management folks here as in all of america today are off the scale overpaid) – but it is all lacking in transparency and coordination and efficiency and accountability – and the government programs and the lawyers have really ruined it all

  6. Terry says:

    Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this article. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  7. LocalRN says:

    I am a former employee of St. Francis. I loved the people that worked there and they will always have a special place in my heart. I do believe they provide quality care and they treated their employees very well. However, I have had a similar experience with their billing office on two separate occasions which may deter our family from using their services again. The first instance involves payment for medical care I received after being injured on the job. I received the bill almost a year and a half later, stating that it had been denied by both my Worker’s Comp insurance and my private insurance multiple times, yet I was never notified until now. It has taken me over a year and countless hours calling the billing office, insurance companies, worker’s comp office, etc., and going to the business office directly to make any leeway in this matter. I was so frustrated of being told that no one knew what the problem was or how to fix it. The responsibility to prove I didn’t owe anything because of an error in their billing department landed solely on me, but I was treated like a deadbeat, too, and I was an employee! It took me two requests to get a copy of my medical records because they lost the first one, and round and round we go. Essentially, it was denied because it was coded wrong and didn’t match the covered injury, it claimed I had a completly differnt body part treated… yet the medical records prove otherwise. It is nearly impossible to speak to anyone locally about billing, as the calls were always routed to their billing call center, which is out of state and out of touch. Every appeal was denied, yet no documentation was ever requested for the appeals I made and no contact regarding the appeal decision was ever made. Even after it was “taken care of” I still received a bill. I still think another one will show up any day now…

    My husband recently had surgery there, too. He also received excellent care, and about a dozen different bills from different specialties in probably a 3 month period, some through St. Francis and some though their contracted services. We took advantage of the discount offered if paid within a few weeks of receiving the bill. St. Francis’ billing website (which took several e-mails to the admin to access because the login account number is your account number less the first two or three numbers, which is not communicated in the website registration info) informed us that if we calculated the discount wrong and overpaid that we would not receive a refund. So, we triple checked the amount before paying. Then 3 weeks later, we received yet another bill from an anethesiologist saying we were about to be turned over to collections, yet I swore we had paid it because the amount was the same as the amount I had paid online for one of the bills weeks after paying the discounted rate. Apparently, weeks after we had paid, their website still showed a balance and hadn’t credited the discount after all. Odd that the discounted amount was the same dollar amount as the anesthesia bill. Of course I called and filed an appeal with the billing office, which rudely told me that I had paid them and NOT the anesthesiologist as they bill through yet another party. They told me the money was nonrefundable, even though they never credited us the promised discounted amount, even weeks after the iniital payment. My husband finally got on the phone and managed to speak to someone locally that said the same problem had been happening to multiple patients and she was surprised that the central billing office was unaware of the issue. Thankfully, the local rep was the one to fix the account and mail us a refund. If it weren’t for talking to her, the central billing office would have still denied us our refund and treated us like dirt.

  8. Christina says:

    We don’t have insurance but rather are a part of a faith-based health sharing group, and we always pay in cash after getting an itemized bill. I dispute any charges we don’t agree wuth, but generally don’t have to. Most places give a substantial discount for self-pay and those paying cash in full. The one exception for us has been prenatal care, which was pre-paid directly to my midwives (that’s a set number of visits so it’s possible to prepay). I delivered my second child at a birthing center and all told his birth & all my care was $5000. After our fellow group members chipped in, we paid for maybe $100. I will NEVER deliver at St Francis now!!

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  12. Bill Sayer says:

    I am both glad and not glad that I am not the only one experiencing this. My wife gave birth on July 9th of this year (2014) at St. Francis Eastside in Greenville. We got a bill received a bill from Palmetto Anesthesia for about $1500. Insurance covered most of it. Then we get a bill from St. Francis for anesthesia services from St. Francis in the amount of $1900…..yes, you read correctly..an additional $1900! This is for the services provided by a CRNA called Sonja Walker (can’t remember her for the life of me). We had to call to obtain that bit of information. Insurance covered $124.12 and 289.61 was deducted as a commercial payment. This still leaves us with 1610.39.
    On what planet does does an epidural for a normal vaginal pregnancy cost over $3100? This is robbery of the worst kind. A Catholic hospital…. how ironic.
    My friend in NY was a self pay for her epidural and she was charged $1200 total..in NYU!! Since when is NYC cheaper than the state of SC?
    What a pack of thieves. I can’t believe there is no government intervention for this kind of extortion. This is organized crime..bottom line! These St. Francis people really burn me up.

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