Frisco parents 'blown away' by child's emergency room bill

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 27 at 4:00 PM

FRISCO — With two busy boys, the Winters family of Frisco expects accidents to happen.

Not long ago, two-year-old Brooks made his first trip to the emergency room when he fell and cut his head.

A few weeks later, dad Rowdy cut his leg on broken glass. "I had three stitches on the inside and 12 on the outside," he said.

"His was almost to the bone," Kimmy Winters said. "And the baby's was just a superficial cut — but it cost us double."

The bill for Rowdy Winters' 15 stitches at Baylor Medical Center at Frisco totaled $1,013.14.

At Children's Medical Center Plano, four stitches cost $2,044.20.

"We were blown away," Kimmy said.

"The cost for caring for children tends to be higher than costs for adult hospitals," conceded Children's Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Doug Hock. "We have significant resources available to care for the most seriously ill and injured children. And to have those resources available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, does make the cost of our emergency room higher than other settings."

Comparing hospital costs procedure-to-procedure is nearly impossible due to variable costs, including government and insurance reimbursements and doctors' fees.

Also, a children's hospital is considered a specialty facility. Whether the patient uses certain services or not, pediatric hospitals that employ specialty services like child life specialists and music therapy must roll some of those fees into overall costs.

However, with high insurance deductibles and a growing number of uninsured patients paying cash, patients are scrutinizing bills more than ever. As a result, hospitals say they are working harder to justify their costs.

Children's Medical Center actually encourages parents to seek care for minor emergencies — like bumps and viruses — elsewhere.

"I think there are a lot of cases where parents might be able to get just as good care in an urgent care center, and not incur some of the costs they might see in the emergency room setting," Hock said.

"I just wish we would've known that there was such a difference in ER rooms, from the children's hospital versus adult hospitals," Kimmy Winters said.

Because of a high deductible, the Winters had to pay every cent out of pocket. They hope others will learn from their expensive lesson.

"Next time they'll go to urgent care," Kimmy Winters said.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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