When a North Carolina man was bitten by a snake in August, he was successfully treated over 18 hours at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center—for which he was billed $89,227, the Charlotte Observer reports. Some $81,000 of that was for four vials of anti-venom, which Eric Ferguson and his wife Laura decided to look up online. They found it there for $750 to $12,000 per vial. Fortunately for the Fergusons, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina's contractual discount cut the bill to $20,227.
Between a deductible and co-pays, Ferguson ultimately paid some $5,400, the Observer reports. "It was just the sticker shock," says Eric, who thinks it's crazy the hospital raked in twice what Medicare would have paid for the anti-venom: $9,460, which is the average sales price plus 6%, the Observer notes. The private, for-profit Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, owned by major (and somewhat notorious) chain Health Management Associates, says it must offer varying discounts to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, and "if we did not start with the list prices we have, we would not end up with enough revenue to remain in operation." Patients who lack insurance get 62% to 65% discounts, the hospital says. The Blaze, meanwhile, points out that a Maryland woman last year was charged $55,000 for snakebite treatment. (Read more North Carolina stories.)