Dear Nurse Katz,
I am a little confused. I just got a bill for $6,000 for what seems to be an extra day in the ICU even though I did not physically get there until the next day. Can a hospital do this? Basically, almost a month ago, I went to the emergency room on a Wednesday at around 8pm, but I did not get see the doctor until around 11:30pm and was not admitted into the ICU (intensive care unit) until 3am the next day (Thursday). Can the hospital charge for Wednesday AND Thursday?
Des Moines, IA
First of all Matt, it is OK to be confused. By definition, the healthcare system is confusing, but it sounds like you are already a healthcare advocate! Great job at taking notes, or at least remembering times/events while you were going through this incident. As you have "indirectly identified," a patient MUST physically occupy a room in order to incur a daily inpatient room charge. So no, you should not have been charged for both Wednesday AND Thursday if you were not physically in the room both days. At this point, if you have not done so already, be sure to get a copy of your medical records and a copy of the itemized bill. In addition, request to talk to the billing manager of the facility about the issue and review all of these documents together. Your medical records should include a copy of the doctor's order to admit you to the hospital as an inpatient. Compare your timeline to the timeline in your medical records to be sure this was not just an oversight by the medical facility. Also, take into consideration that a written order to admit a patient as an inpatient does not meet the definition of a "room occupancy," even if the "admitting doctor" wrote the order before midnight if you were NOT actually in the room. Again, good detective work and I hope you get the issue resolved quickly. Some more examples of billing mistakes and how to resolve them can be found in the book, Healthcare Made Easy.