After caring for her ectopic pregnancy, a woman in New York City got a huge bill. This shows that cost could be a barrier to care for some women, even in states where abortion is legal.
Sara Laub told Kaiser Health News (KHN) that she did not expect her treatment to be so expensive, take so much time, or require so many trips to the emergency room.
An ectopic pregnancy is rare. It happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, sometimes in a fallopian tube. The Mayo Clinic says that these pregnancies “can’t go on normally” because the fertilized egg can’t live and if the growing tissue isn’t treated, it could cause bleeding that could be fatal.
Mayo Clinic says that if a fertilized egg keeps growing in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to break, which can lead to a lot of bleeding in the abdomen.
The Mayo Clinic says that ectopic pregnancies happen about once every 30,000 pregnancies. But about 1 out of every 100 pregnancies happens outside of the uterus when a woman is getting fertility treatment.
Laub told KHN that she went to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. There, she could have surgery to take out her fallopian tube or get an injection of methotrexate, a cancer drug that is used to end an ectopic pregnancy.
After she chose the injection, she went back to the ER five times for more injections and blood work before she had to have surgery. Laub’s medical care took 12 days and cost a total of $80,000. Due to her health care plan, she had to pay more than $4,000 out of her own pocket.
“As scary as my ordeal felt at the time, I was acutely aware that I was fortunate to have easy access to treatment and elsewhere women with my condition face much worse experiences,” Laub told KHN, referring to states where treatment for ectopic pregnancies are postponed or banned due to laws enacted after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“On the one hand, I feel grateful that I was able to get treated when I was not in an acute state,” Laub added. “But it’s an awful feeling to know that the decision I made as to the best path forward for care comes at such a high cost.”
Even though New York has laws that protect abortion, health experts say Laub was charged too much for the care she got.
WellRithms, a company that looks at medical bills for self-funded companies, found that Laub’s surgery usually costs $12,541, but she was charged $45,020 for it. This was reported by the outlet. The company thinks that the cost to the hospital to do the laparoscopic procedure is about $3,750.
The company’s vice president of claims, Jordan Weintraub, told KHN, “Hospitals will charge whatever they can.” “They put it on the payer to deny items rather than billing appropriately.”
Lenox Hill hospital defended its prices to KHN in the end, as well as its decision to treat Laub in the more expensive emergency room. “Ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening conditions, require close surveillance and management to ensure a successful resolution,” the hospital said. “The emergency setting allows for immediate availability of critical surgical services, as was ultimately necessary in this patient’s case.”
Treatment costs for ectopic pregnancies vary from state to state. Even though they protect abortion rights, states like New York and California have some of the highest average costs for abortion care.
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