Late last August, New Jersey school teacher Baer Hanusz-Rajkowski split the end of his finger open with the claw end of a hammer. He waited a few days to see if the injury would get better on its own, but the wound wasn't healing properly. Ultimately, Hanusz-Rajkowski (who, for the sake of this writer's typing sanity, we're just going to call "Baer" from here on out) decided to head to his local emergency room at the Bayonne Medical Center to get a medical eye on the issue.
The nurse practitioner who checked Baer out determined that the injury would not require stitches and that an X-ray wasn't necessary. He received a tetanus shot and a bandage for his wound. On his way out the door, he also got stuck with an $8,200 bill for his trouble. According to the local New York news team who uncovered the story, "Bayonne Medical Center charged $180 for a tetanus shot, $242 for sterile supplies, and $8 for some antibacterial ointment in addition to hundreds of dollars for the services of the nurse practitioner."
Bayonne Medical Center's president and CEO, Dr. Mark Spektor, claims that the high price resulted from a contract dispute with Baer's healthcare provider, United Healthcare. Pointing to insurance companies' extremely high profits in the area, Spektor claims that accommodating his emergency room's patients price-wise would put the hospital in danger of closing down. That sounds all well and good - after all, who doesn't hate insurance companies? - but CarePoint Health's history in the area isn't exactly a shining example of customer service.
CarePoint Health owns three hospitals in the Hudson area. They maintain a virtual stranglehold on the region's health services. Until May of last year, CarePoint Health was known as Hudson HoldCo, a company with a reputation for shady business practices. Hudson HoldCo rebranded last year amid allegations that they used "systematic efforts and 'political muscle' to block" a competitor's entry into the New Jersey hospital market. According to the suit which was filed in March, a partial owner of Hudson HoldCo threatened the CEO of a rival company by vowing "to dirty [their] reputation with legislators, unions and other stakeholders."
At the time of the name change, a press release stated their plans "to offer a Medicaid plan and operate in the healthcare reform law's health insurance marketplaces by the end of this year." According to a post from a former employee in February of this year, that promise has apparently gone unfulfilled.
Even more damning, when CarePoint Health sprung to life, they explicitly stated the following:
"We also want to reduce the cost of healthcare in Hudson County. Creating our own insurance plans and integrating our hospitals and healthcare services helps us do that."
That sounds like a solid idea, because, according to the Huffington Post, the folks at CarePoint have a long way to go to make their prices competitive: "Bayonne Hospital Center -- part of a chain called CarePoint Healthcare -- charges the highest prices for several types of procedures, including COPD treatment, among the regional hospitals reviewed by HuffPost. Its price for that treatment runs four times the average in the New York area, according to the database."
Need something more specific? In the same piece, HuffPo pointed out, "Major joint replacement surgery at the hospital comes in at $155,769, which is almost three times the local average and more than nine times the price at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx."
With the skyrocketing prices of healthcare these days, it's almost unsurprising to see a company trying to gouge patients. For his part, Baer says he's done with the Bayonne Medical Center. "If I severed a limb, I’d carry it to the next emergency room in the next city before I go back to this place."