US Medical Care: $3000 bill for removing cotton from boy’s ear

In order to augment the veracity of Dan’s article (Shamelessly Oxymoronic US Healthcare), I’m posting a medical bill I got for taking my son to the ER to remove a piece of cotton from his ear. My young son got the head of a Q-tip stuck in his ear on a Friday night, and when I tried to remove it, it went in deeper. As it happened on the weekend, I was afraid it would infect his ear if it got wet and we waited until Monday to see our primary doctor, so I went to the U.C. Davis Emergency Room. I admit there was no real medical emergency at the time, but I wanted to avoid a possible one and did what, as a parent, I thought was best. I am not one to abuse emergency room services and have only used them twice in my life previously, once for my wife when I was teaching college and had no insurance, and once for myself.

It took two minutes (or less) to remove the cotton from my boy’s ear , but the “Q-tip extraction specialist” needed longer hemostats, so I guess that’s what cost the extra thousands…. A hemostat is such a complicated tool as we all know, about as complex as a pair of tweezers.

In Taiwan, a very capitalist country with wonderful nationalized health care (I’ve used it), most likely the doctors would have said no charge and given my kid a lollipop on his way out. If they did charge, it would have been no more than $20 and probably with an apology since we had no national health care card like everyone else and had to pay out of pocket. This happened to me at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou, Taiwan in 2008. I got an x-ray of my back along with a consultation and they charged me $20. The billing agent said she was sorry she had to charge me. How many of you have heard that in the US?


Here in the US they gave us a $3000.00 bill for a one-minute cotton ball removal from my son’s ear. Yes, we’re lucky to have had health insurance, at least temporarily, so we had to co-pay $75, which I still think is too much for what the white-coated demigod that treated my son actually did. That’s not the point. Just because I had coverage doesn’t excuse the travesty of a blatant overcharge like that. What if it were a real medical emergency? That’s how people go bankrupt in America for getting sick or hurt once without insurance. We’re the only “civilized” (the term doesn’t seem appropriate somehow) country where that happens. Shame on us. We suck because we tolerate this shameful state of affairs, and most Americans are completely duped about the nature of health care in America. These are invariably people who have never traveled outside the US to another truly civilized country.

This is the problem with US health care. Insurance or not, it costs too damn much. So where’s the money going? Doctors do well in other countries without exploiting patients. My guess is the insurance business bandits in the US are skimming off most of the loot.

This is criminal, and the crooks need to go.

(click on image to increase size)