Cracking the Code: Two blood tests, hundreds of dollars difference

Cracking the Code: Blood Tests

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A Louisiana woman is puzzled how a bill for basic blood tests can be hundreds of dollars more than a co-worker who had the same tests performed.

Kim Christina, of Hammond, said her doctor sent her to North Oaks Hospital for a routine blood test and a month later she received an ‘exorbitant bill.’

Christina thought the hospital made a mistake after receiving a bill for $800 for the fifteen minute test.

“There’s no excuse in the books that explain this amount,” she said.

One of Christina’s co-workers had the same tests performed, but went to LabCorp instead of the hospital. The co-worker was on the same insurance as Christina, but her bill was six hundred dollars less.

“I’m very upset about it,” Christina said. “If I get an oil change and they said okay well your oil change is going to be $4,000 -- hey I’m not going to get my oil changed here, I’m going to go somewhere else.”

Two years ago in our Cracking the Code series, FOX 8 investigated the nonsensical healthcare pricing system. One thing that stood out were that blood tests and MRI’s at hospitals always cost more than a third-party facility.

“You shouldn’t have to have a procedure and get a gotcha bill much later,” Jeanne Pinder, with the New York-based Journalism Company Clear Health Costs, said.

North Oaks Hospital told FOX 8 by e-mail, they verified Christina was billed correctly for the tests. The hospital blamed her insurance company writing, “What portion the insurance company will pay, and what portion Ms. Christina will have to pay, is determined exclusively by her insurance company and her coverage with them.”

Christina said she learned a valuable lesson, one that Pinder tells everyone who will listen.

“We tell people always ask what will this cost. What will it cost under my insurance? What is the cash price?” Pinder said.

She also suggests people get those numbers in writing before the tests or procedures are done.

Christina could afford to pay the hundreds in difference in her bill, but worries surprising healthcare costs could force some to make difficult spending decisions.

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