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A $6,758 ER visit for a tweaked back, and on the hook for all of it

PUBLISHED on MAY 31, 2023
A photo of the Holbrook family, including Aubrynne, her husband Tyler, and their two children.

Early last year, Aubrynne Holbrook, 28, was at home in Lehi, UT when she suddenly felt shooting pains all over her body. The pain didn’t subside. 

Concerned she might be suffering from a slipped disc, her husband Tyler, 31, drove her to the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital-Mountain Point (formerly Mountain Point Medical Center), several miles away. There, the doctors ushered Aubrynne through two MRIs and found not one, but 10, slipped discs in her spine.

The rest of the visit flew by. The Holbrooks knew it’d cost them later, but they were relieved doctors were able to quickly pinpoint the cause. With the two MRIs, Tyler figured the hospital bill would come out to $3,000, maybe $4,000 at most, after insurance. The timing was unlucky; they were just two days shy from moving to a lower-deductible plan, so they’d likely need to pay out of pocket. Then again, Tyler thought, who can predict an emergency?

But when the hospital bill came in the mail a few days later, the Holbrooks were shocked: They owed nearly $6,758, even after insurance, nearly twice what they expected. Worse, because their insurance deductible was $7,000, they were on the hook for that entire amount.

Their hospital bill showed that they owed nearly $6,758, even after insurance. Worse, because their deductible was $7,000, they were on the hook for all of it.

Tyler researched online to find out how to lower his bill. Many sites suggested calling his hospital to ask for a discount, so he did, for several months, to no avail.

“They put me through the wringer,” he said. “They wouldn’t budge one dime.”

The Holbrooks also applied for the hospital’s charity care program to see if their income would qualify them for partial coverage, but they were denied. Their only option besides paying upfront, hospital administrators told them, was to pay back the balance over the next few years.

The hospital insisted that negotiation was not an option. “They put me through the wringer. They wouldn’t budge one dime,” Tyler said.

“They kept trying to get me on a 4-6 year payment plan, like I’m buying an Audi,” Tyler said. He didn’t want his family to be in debt for that long, all for a hospital visit that had lasted just a few hours. 

After months of hitting dead ends, someone recommended trying Goodbill to see if he could get his bill lowered. He signed up, but he wasn’t optimistic. After countless hospital calls with hospital administrators, he was convinced he’d have to pay the full amount. “They claimed there was no such thing as negotiating,” he said. Plus, his bill was nearing the deadline for being sent to collections. 

Fast forward to last month: With Goodbill leading the negotiation, the Holbrooks won a discount of $1,352, or 20%, off their hospital bill.

The Holbrooks' emergency room bill, which showed that they owed $6,758 even after insurance adjustments. Goodbill was able to lower that by 20%.

Goodbill had conducted a coding and pricing analysis of their hospital bill, identifying nine charges where the price was higher than what the Holbrooks would have paid had they been uninsured. Based on these findings, Goodbill documented and presented a strong case to the hospital, ultimately lowering the Holbrooks’ balance.

The Holbrooks say they wish they’d known about Goodbill earlier, so they could have saved themselves months of headaches, stress, and fruitless phone calls with the hospital. They hope more patients know that they can fight their hospital bills with Goodbill. 

“Hospitals are just designed to make everything really, really hard and complicated,” Tyler said. “The market is begging for someone to protect people from this scam.”

“Hospitals are just designed to make everything really, really hard and complicated,” Tyler said.

Aubrynne is now almost fully recovered, thanks to months of physical therapy. But the Holbrooks say their experience with their Holy Cross hospital bill isn’t something they’ll soon forget, and they have no intention of ever returning, even if they have another emergency.

“I promise you, it doesn’t matter how critical or serious a family member is,” Tyler said. “I will drive right past them and go to Intermountain Healthcare,” he said, referring to a hospital that is farther away.

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