South Korean tourists were shocked to receive a hospital bill of $18,000 after their baby only took a nap and drank formula in an emergency room during a vacation to San Francisco.
Expensive hospital bills have alarmingly become the norm in the United States, and incidents such as this highlights the growing problem. Why did the hospital charge such an exorbitant amount?
Hospital Charges $18,000 For Baby's Nap And Formula
How much does an ER visit cost? For a South Korean couple, much more than what they were expecting, according to a Vox report.
Jang Yeo-im, her husband, Park Seong-jin, and their 8-month-old baby went on vacation to San Francisco in 2016. However, in their first morning, their son, Park Jeong-whan, fell off the bed and hit his head.
There was no blood, but the baby was crying nonstop. The couple, worried that the baby may have suffered internal injuries, called 911. The ambulance that arrived took them to the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
The doctors made the quick assessment that the baby was fine, with only slight bruises on the forehead and the nose. The baby took a short nap in Jang's arms, drank infant formula, and was discharged after a few hours.
Two years later, the medical bill arrived at their home. According to the hospital, the South Korean couple owes $18,836 for the visit to the emergency room, which lasted just over three hours. The bulk of the amount was referred to as a trauma activation fee, which costs $15,666.
"It's a huge amount of money for my family," Jang said, as travel insurance will only cover $5,000. "If my baby got special treatment, okay. That would be okay. But he didn't. So why should I have to pay the bill? They did nothing for my son."
What Is The Trauma Activation Fee?
The trauma activation fee, in essence, is supposed to cover the costs of assembling medical teams to address patients that need urgent and serious attention. However, reports claim that in recent years, some hospitals are exploiting the trauma activation fee, treating it like a door charge for all patients who walk into emergency rooms.
The trauma activation fee is only supposed to come into effect when a patient receives critical care for 30 minutes. However, the team that took a look at Jeong-whan dispersed after only a few minutes.
The Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, however, insists on charging the trauma activation fee to the South Korean family.
"We are the trauma center for a very large, very densely populated area," said a spokesperson. "We deal with so many traumas in this city — car accidents, mass shootings, multiple vehicle collisions. It's expensive to prepare for that."