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After Vox story, Zuckerberg hospital rolls back $20,243 emergency room bill

The city of San Francisco is also planning hearings on the emergency room’s billing tactics.

Nina Dang stands with the bike she was riding the day of her accident in San Francisco, California, on December 30, 2018. 
Emma Marie Chiang for Vox

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital is reducing a bike crash patient’s $20,243 bill down to $200 — only after the case drew national attention to the hospital’s surprising policy of being out-of-network with all private health insurance.

As Vox reported earlier this month, this billing tactic can cost privately insured patients tens of thousands of dollars for care that would likely cost them significantly less at other hospitals. That includes patients like Nina Dang, who was left with the $20,243 emergency room bill after an ambulance brought her to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital last April.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which oversees the hospital, now plans to hold hearings on Zuckerberg General’s billing practices as well.

“While we as a city should absolutely seek reimbursement from private insurers, we should not be placing the burden of exorbitant bills on patients — who deserve the highest quality care, not the highest possible costs,” said Gordon Mar, the supervisor who chairs the board’s government audit and oversight committee.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital had previously threatened to send Dang’s bill to the city department of delinquent revenue if she did not pay it in full. After the Vox story was published, Dang says the hospital reached out and reduced the bill to $200 — the regular co-payment for emergency room use under Dang’s plan.

The hospital did not respond to Vox’s request to comment on the bill.

Vox discovered this unusual billing practice after multiple Zuckerberg San Francisco General patients submitted their Vox’s yearlong investigation into emergency room billing practices. Vox has so far collected nearly 2,000 bills from readers. The stories in the emergency room series has resulted in more than $65,000 in emergency room bills being reversed, as well as a bill introduced in the Senate to end this type of surprise ER bills.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital has not commented on whether it plans to change its policies, and go in-network with private health insurance, although a spokesperson told Vox they are looking into how to make sure other patients don’t end in a situation like Dang’s.

“We are focused on reducing the number of people who could be in this predicament, through a variety of methods, including our own practices, insurance payments, and policy solutions,” spokesperson Rachael Kagan told Vox in an email.

You can read the original story about Zuckerberg San Francisco General here — and learn more about Vox’s work on emergency room billing here.

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