Bay Area hospital slammed in lawsuit over $6,000 emergency bill for urine test

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Savannah Thompson visited John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek in June, fearing she had accidentally ingested fentanyl after taking what she thought was cocaine, reports The Mercury News. Both Thompson’s blood and urine were tested; she was treated and discharged from the Bay Area hospital three hours after arriving.

Shortly after, she received a bill for $6,095 for the urine test, according to the lawsuit, which accuses John Muir Health of violating California consumer protection law.

The lawsuit says Thompson’s insurance provider paid John Muir Health more than $6,000, but she received a bill asking for more than $7,000 more, the majority of which was for the urine test.

By comparison, the fees are nearly 100 times the Medicare reimbursement rate of $62, reports NBC San Diego.

“They charged him over $6,000 for it,” Thompson’s attorney Peter Fredman said. “And that’s what this is about. We’re arguing that this $6,000 charge for a urine test is unconscionable.”

The lawsuit says John Muir Health has charged high fees for the test since 2018, when a typical test at an emergency room in the same area costs about $700.

John Muir Health defended its charges in a statement obtained by Mercury News on Tuesday. According to the company, emergency fees for services tend to be higher than outpatient fees due to the need for 24-hour staff availability.

“By law, hospitals are not allowed to discuss payment before treatment or give price lists,” the company said. “The claims will not stand up to scrutiny by a court.”

During her visit, Thompson signed a contract agreeing to pay under “standard rates and terms,” ​​according to the suit, but her attorney said the hospital broke the law.

“The nature of emergency care is that patients cannot purchase services based on reasonable rates,” Fredman said. “In this case, John Muir never disclosed that he intended to charge Ms. Thompson 100 times the value of the procedure. California law protects consumers in these situations.”

Thompson and his attorneys are seeking class action status for anyone else subject to John Muir Health’s urine test charges, though it’s unclear how many were similarly charged.

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