Last Nov. I was assaulted late in the evening. After EMS cleaned my wounds and I figured that I was capable of driving myself, I went home to look for a hospital where I could get stitches.
Looking to avoid high ER costs, or at least a long wait while I was bleeding from my head, I found what seemed to be the best option after midnight, St Michael's ER on Westhiemer.
As I checked in, I asked about billing, and was assured that the billing would be the same as if I were ""in-network"", but that the machine was down at the time, so they couldn't give me an exact answer. I got my stitches, and several days later got them out. No complaints about the services.
However, the billing was less than uncomplicated. At first, I was billed for the removal of my stitches, which I was told at the initial visit, and at the removal visit, were included in the original visit's cost. The billing department corrected this, and credited me for the ~$200 charge.
A month later, I received my bill for the initial visit. I carry high-deductible insurance through BCBS of TX, so I knew that the visit wouldn't be paid for by my insurance, but that's why I have savings. However, only $222 of my $1200+ bill was counted towards my deductible. After talking to both St Michael's and BCBS, the discrepancy appeared to be that BCBS covered the in-network payment that they would normally pay for the services in my area, whereas St Michael's held that their rates were the normal rates for my area. If I had gone to an ""in-network"" hospital, I would have been charged for the $222 that BCBS ""adjusts"" for its customers. However, since BCBS does not contract with St Michael's, my bill would not be adjusted, going against what I was led to believe when I signed in to the ER just after midnight. Eventually, I was given a 30% ""discount"" if I paid in full, by the end of the day, which I did.
In summary, St Michael's misrepresented their costs as being ""in-network"", whereas they billed me over 4 times what ""in-network"" would have cost me. Had I have known that St Michael's ER would have been so expensive, I would have gone elsewhere. However, ""shopping around"" for ER prices isn't possible even at the best of times, and especially not at the time when you need emergency care.