Sticker Shock Jolts Oklahoma Patient: $15,076 For 4 Tiny Screws

NPR reports on Sherry Young, a retired librarian on disability and a mother of two in Lawton, Oklahoma, who went to an orthopedist to find relief for pain in her foot.

An orthopedic surgeon told her that he could fix her problem for good. “He thought my foot was hitting the ground too hard and causing pain,” said Young. “That’s what he was trying to correct.”

Though Young had had several orthopedic surgeries, she had always had good insurance and never scrutinized her bills.

At the time of her foot surgery, Young of course knew nothing about hospital charges for surgical screws, medical saws and other hardware used in the operating room.

Then the bill came: $115,527 for a three-day hospital stay, including $15,076 for four tiny screws — measuring 2.8 millimeters wide and no more than 14 millimeters long — placed in the two middle toes of her left foot. That’s a lot of money for a few screws.

Young realized the bill was for as much as her home is worth and five times her annual income. After NPR questioned the charges, Young’s insurance company took care of the bill.

The takeaway: Companies can charge big prices for small surgical supplies, and hospitals can mark them up at will.

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