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Woman says she was not informed of cost before Charlotte-area hospital treatment

Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 5:33 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A visit to the Charlotte area, a trip to the emergency room, and a surprise bill for thousands of dollars have all added up to a big headache for one woman.

Emily Plazek is stuck with a $2,500 bill for going to the ER. She’s out of work and isn’t sure how she’ll pay for that. She’s also not sure she would’ve gotten the treatment had she known how much it would cost beforehand.

“I wish I had known how much this was going to cost because I wouldn’t have gotten the stitches or would have gone to Urgent Care,” said Plazek.

She was visiting her brother in the Charlotte area this past September when she went to Atrium Health Pineville to get stitches.

Her insurance, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, showed that the hospital was in-network.

Plazek’s total bill for the stitches and an x-ray totaled $3,500.

Insurance only covered $1,000, leaving her on the hook for the rest.

“I lost my job this year,” Plazek said. “They didn’t have anything except for their normal billing.”

She said after the procedure, she called Atrium several times and eventually someone showed her a list of prices.

If she had known the cost, she said she would have gone to Urgent Care instead.

That story doesn’t surprise North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell who’s been fighting for years for hospitals to provide more transparent pricing.

“A couple of years ago when I attempted to find out what we were paying for healthcare, this is what was returned to me as the State Treasurer of North Carolina,” Folwell said while showing WBTV paperwork. “This was the actual price list that was returned to me. Every single page was blacked out.”

Folwell believes the customer should know the price.

“We have started the Clear Pricing Project and it’s exactly how it sounds,” Folwell said. “Clear pricing. And basically, what it means is get rid of secret contracts, push the power to the consumer.”

WBTV reached out to Atrium but didn’t get a response.

A spokesman for Anthem said Plazek’s insurance only covered the cost after she met her deductible.

“This $2,500 bill is gutting during this COVID year,” said Plazek, “but there are other people where it wouldn’t just be gutting - it would be making them starving, it could ruin their credit score for the future, so this isn’t just about me.”

Like Plazek did, always check that the hospital is in-network, present your insurance card, and make sure you know what is and isn’t covered under your insurance plan.

The State Treasurer’s Clear Pricing Project has gotten a big pushback from hospitals as Folwell has tried to tie reimbursement rates from the state health plan to a multiple of what is reimbursed for Medicaid.

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