15-minute procedure to remove earwax results in $1,800 bill

9NEWS Investigates sent the details to three medical billing experts. All three agreed the bill was absurd.

DENVER — Jeff Desserich left UCHealth’s Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic expecting to pay a few hundred dollars for the 15 minutes it took for a nurse practitioner to pry loose the remaining bits of earwax that still lingered in his ears.

Months later, he’s on the front end of a $100-a-month plan to pay off what now amounts to an $1,800 bill for the simple procedure.

What the high school teacher has learned will almost certainly fuel a day’s lesson in his financial literacy class. What 9NEWS Investigates has learned should also fuel a discussion in your household about what can happen when you seek medical care within a system that struggles to fairly bill patients.

“It’s very frustrating,” Desserich said.

If he could go back in time, he said, “I would not have done it.”

15-minute procedure to remove earwax results in $1,800 bill
15-minute procedure to remove earwax results in $1,800 bill
Credit: 9NEWS

9NEWS Investigates, with Desserich’s permission, sent the details of his earwax removal to three medical billing experts. All three agreed the bill was absurd.

“It’s a ridiculous price,” said Patrick Haig, the CEO of Goodbill.com, a Washington-based organization that helps patients fight incorrect billing practices.

“It’s outrageous,” said Cynthia Fisher, founder of PatientRightsAdvocate.com, a nonprofit that advocates for healthcare price transparency.

“It’s totally obscene,” said Adam Fox with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

It’s also, Haig said, not terribly unusual.

“That’s what’s pretty terrifying is that these are pretty ordinary, run-of-the-mill American hospital bill cases,” he said.

Why?

Well, for starters, let’s look at the details of Desserich’s bills from UCHealth.

The first bill he received was for $502. At first, Desserich assumed that was the only bill he would receive.

“I thought, dang, this is the worst-case scenario,” he said.

A few weeks later, his scenario got even worse. That $500 bill was merely for the professional side. Basically, it was the bill to pay the person – a nurse practitioner in this case – to remove the earwax.

That’s common in the world of medical billing.

“Typically, when you go to a hospital you’re going to get two bills. You’re going to get the physician bill – or the professional bill – and you’re going to get the hospital bill,” Haig said.

15-minute procedure to remove earwax results in $1,800 bill
15-minute procedure to remove earwax results in $1,800 bill
Credit: 9NEWS

Desserich’s second bill included two lines – each coded with distinct codes – for the procedure.

The first code was 69210. That’s for “removal of impacted cerumen (earwax).”  UCHealth billed Desserich $1,141.84 for that.

For comparison sake, government-run Medicare would have paid around $57 on a 69210 claim.

The second code was 99202. That’s the code for an “office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient.” UCHealth billed him $175.26 for that.

That’s what brings the entire bill above $1,800.

UCHealth, correctly, told 9NEWS Investigates that the amount billed to Desserich was part of a contracted rate it has with Desserich’s insurance, Aetna.

“This is their contract,” UCHealth spokesperson Dan Weaver said. “If you have questions about the amount, please reach out to Aetna.”

We did. Aetna told us, through a spokesperson, “The services billed by the provider who treated the member were repriced at the contracted rates between the provider and the Aetna Network.”

We asked Haig, Fisher and Fox their advice for patients facing big medical bills.

Haig told us:

  • Ask the medical provider for a line-by-line itemization of how they coded your procedure.
  • Look at your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company to see how your insurance paid (or did not pay).
  • Hospital bills are often incorrect. Make sure your itemized statement meshes with what was actually done.

Fox told us:

  • Ask to be financially screened. You might qualify for assistance based on your income.
  • Look at your EOB and see where your insurance company might have paid (or not paid). Work with the insurance company when it comes to appealing insurance decisions.
  • File a complaint with the Colorado Division of Insurance (for insurance company mistakes/errors) and/or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (for hospital mistakes/errors).

> SHOW US YOUR BILLS: 9NEWS Investigates has spent years looking into medical bills. If you have a bill you'd like to share, email [email protected].

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: 9NEWS Investigates

[video_shortcode_youtube src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLlV2Iuo79CuqkcZDsW-gSdLivyMtbmKJD" itemprop="image" content="https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLlV2Iuo79CuqkcZDsW-gSdLivyMtbmKJD" data-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLlV2Iuo79CuqkcZDsW-gSdLivyMtbmKJD"]

OTHER NEWS

17 minutes ago

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck arrive SEPARATELY for cinema event with kids but keep wedding rings ON amid divorce rumors... and his ex Jennifer Garner is there too

17 minutes ago

Florida mom is arrested in Turks and Caicos for ammo in suitcase - the fifth American tourist detained on the islands this year over bullets in their bags

18 minutes ago

Why Oleksandr Usyk will be stripped of one world title despite stunning Fury win

18 minutes ago

Archive: Hunter, Caps Teammates Believed 21-Game Suspension For Turgeon Hit Was Too Harsh

18 minutes ago

Toronto-St. Paul's federal by-election will challenge Liberal stronghold, say pollsters

18 minutes ago

Soccer-Brazil add three players to Copa America squad, injured Ederson replaced

19 minutes ago

De Rozario’s final goal for Paris

19 minutes ago

The Guardiola supremacy: how City became too good for their own good

19 minutes ago

'Terrifying' For League to See Chiefs Get Better in 2024

19 minutes ago

Nazi's photo album shows life of a top Auschwitz officer

19 minutes ago

'Deeply concerning': Effect of social media on mental health raising concerns

19 minutes ago

Led by John Herdman, resurgent Toronto FC putting recent dismal past behind it

19 minutes ago

Bills 'Haven't Changed That Much' After Offseason Dealings

19 minutes ago

Labor budget gets lukewarm response, migration slammed

19 minutes ago

Schauffele wins thriller at Valhalla for first major at PGA Championship

20 minutes ago

Xander Schauffele wins PGA Championship for first major

20 minutes ago

Xander Schauffele hails ‘awesome’ birdie that clinched first major title

23 minutes ago

Video: Demi Moore stuns in an extravagant silk gown as she joins glamorous Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio at the 77th Cannes Film Festival premiere of The Substance

23 minutes ago

Video: Eva Longoria is sheer perfection in see-through sparkling gown as she joins glamorous Christina Milian at the 10th Global Gift Gala in Cannes

23 minutes ago

Video: ARSENAL NOTEBOOK: Carnival fever hits the Emirates before kick-off, fans are treated to final day drama and Jurrien Timber is rewarded for his hard work as Gunners are pipped to the title

23 minutes ago

Video: Demi Moore, 61, stuns in a black strapless dress as she joins stylish Margaret Qualley at The Substance photocall during Cannes Film Festival

23 minutes ago

Video: Antiques Roadshow guest is left shell-shocked by the valuation of her grandmother's childhood doll - which viewers branded 'creepy, sinister, and possibly possessed'

23 minutes ago

Video: Kylie Jenner sweetly tears up while enjoying fun mother-son outing with toddler Aire, 2, at monster truck show in Los Angeles

24 minutes ago

Jon Wysocki - the founding drummer of rock group Staind - has passed away at 53

24 minutes ago

Bryson DeChambeau is forced to settle for second place at the PGA Championship but fires a warning shot ahead of US Open

25 minutes ago

Timothy Spall to star in ‘unique’ BBC comedy-drama Death Valley

25 minutes ago

First Black astronaut candidate, now 90, reaches space in Blue Origin flight

25 minutes ago

Best flip flops for men

25 minutes ago

Timeline of events cops claim led to alleged murder of schoolgirl Charlise Mutten

25 minutes ago

Jeep takes axe to Grand Cherokee prices

25 minutes ago

REMINDER: Orlando Pirates ready contract extension for veteran

25 minutes ago

PICS: Kelsea Ballerini and her mum lead the red carpet style at ACM Awards

25 minutes ago

Botanists are trying to save a forgotten ecosystem split by Trump’s giant wall

25 minutes ago

Bryson DeChambeau puts on a show but somehow comes up short at PGA Championship

25 minutes ago

Fresh floods in Afghanistan kill nearly 100 people after heavy rain

25 minutes ago

Marco Rubio Won’t Say Whether He Will Accept 2024 Election Results—Joining Other Republicans Echoing Trump

25 minutes ago

Chelsea reach ‘agreement’ to sign Palmeiras starlet with deal to include ‘performance-based incentives’

27 minutes ago

Kyle Larson qualifies 5th for 2024 Indy 500, gets in helicopter for NASCAR All-Star Race

27 minutes ago

London remains top pick in Europe for financial investors; Paris comes second

30 minutes ago

Natalie Barr and Matt Shirvington respond to 'absolutely disgusting' video of Sean Combs assaulting ex Cassie in hotel

Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch