Confusing Hospital Bills Driving Growth In Bad Debt

David Silverstein’s frustrations trying to understand the hospital charges for his daughter’s sports injuries drove him to consider going to court.

He had the money to pay.

He simply refused because he couldn’t get a Providence Health & Services hospital in Spokane, Wash., where his daughter was away at college, to explain the prices in her bills.

Silverstein was no ordinary consumer. The Denver-area management consultant had clients at more than a dozen hospital systems, including Mount Carmel Health System in Ohio and BayCare Health System in Florida. If anyone could navigate the system, it should have been him.

But each time his daughter’s injuries required an emergency hospital visit—a concussion in a basketball game, a dislocated finger—the former Navy officer became more flummoxed at how flawed the billing system seemed.

“I eventually got on the phone with the hospital CFO,” Silverstein recalled. “I said, ‘What I really want is for you to sue me.’ ” If the hospital sued, at least the hospital’s prices would be disclosed in court.

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