A South Korean family’s vacation to the United States turned into a nightmare as they were slapped with an $18,000 hospital bill after they took their son to ER for a quick visit.
In 2016, Jang Yeo-im and her family were getting ready to enjoy their vacation in San Francisco, California, when their 8-month-old son, Park Jeong-whan, met with unexpected accident and took a spill off their hotel room’s bed.
Although there was no blood, Jeong-whan was inconsolable.
To make sure the child was alright and there were no internal injuries, Jang and her husband decided to visit a hospital and took the crying baby to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
Shortly after arriving at hospital’s ER, doctors found out that Jeong-whan was a little bruised, but was medically fine and there were no internal injuries.
The child then took a short nap in his mother’s arms during their stay at the hospital and was given a infant formula. The family spent less than three and a half hours in the ER for observation and was later discharged.
Rest of the vacation went as the couple had planned. However, little did they know a hefty hospital bill would soon knock on their door.
Two years later, the family eventually received the bill, and to their shock, they owed the hospital $18,836.
A large portion of the bill, about $15,666, came from a charge called "trauma activation," also known as "a trauma response fee."
“It’s a huge amount of money for my family,” said Jang, whose family had travel insurance that would cover only $5,000. “If my baby got special treatment, OK. That would be OK. But he didn’t. So why should I have to pay the bill? They did nothing for my son.”
According to Vox, "trauma fee is the price a trauma center charges when it activates and assembles a team of medical professionals that can meet a patient with potentially serious injuries in the ER."
A spokesperson from the hospital where Jeong-whan was treated said although the child didn’t receive emergency trauma treatment, the team was given a heads-up and cost of being trauma-ready is very expensive.
"We are the trauma center for a very large, very densely populated area. We deal with so many traumas in this city car accidents, mass shootings, multiple vehicle collisions," said Brent Andrew, another SFGH spokesman, defending the excessive hospital's fee. "It's expensive to prepare for that."
The incident highlights one of the biggest issues people across the United States are forced to struggle with: the extremely high cost of medical care.
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