Group involved in fighting ER charge for child birth

Improvingbirth.org: erroneous charges an epidemic

DENVER - A group is going after a hospital for erroneous and exorbitant charges.

A group called ImprovingBirth.org is now representing a family that received a $6,600 emergency room bill for having a baby when they didn't even use the ER.

Improvingbirth.org says it's a growing trend --  charging you for care you don't even use.

That happened to Anthony family.

"We noticed some strange charges," said Greg Anthony.

Greg and his wife, Meghan, received the bill from Rose Medical Center after having their youngest son, Jude, in July -- even though they never set foot in the ER.

"The emergency room was not involved at all," said Meghan.

"That just doesn't make any sense," said human rights attorney Indra Lusero. "We see this kind of penalty for being pregnant or giving birth manifest in a lot of different ways all over the country."

Lusero works with ImprovingBirth.org, which is a group that advises families like the Anthonys on how to fight erroneous, exorbitant child birth charges.

"It's such a complex system," said Lusero. "And consumers are least well-positioned to advocate for themselves."

Lusero said it's a nationwide epidemic -- hospitals charging for services patients don't use.

"Nobody even knows where those numbers come from," said Lusero of hospital charges varying from one hospital to the next. "One woman was charged $68,000 for a 6 1/2 hour birth at Rose."

Rose Medical Center issued this statement on Tuesday night:

"We contacted the patient when we were first made aware of this story so that we could try to work with them directly to address their concerns. Unfortunately, we still haven't had the opportunity to speak with them, and instead they have taken it to the media.  There are many other elements to this issue than are covered in these reports, which is why we prefer to talk with our patients personally whenever possible.

"As for the other charges mentioned by this organization [ImprovingBirth.org], we have not been contacted by that patient and haven't had a chance to review that account. Again, we would prefer to deal with the patient directly to address any concerns, especially so we can better understand their insurance or self-pay situation and work with them," the medical center's statement concluded.

Lusero says insurance companies don't hold hospitals accountable.

"Honestly, I've been looking at that question for almost a decade and I still don't have the answer," Lusero said.

Rose justifies the charge by saying it considers all labor an emergency.

"And this just goes to show the kinds of economic consequences that come from viewing birth as an emergency," said Lusero. She says her group has helped families like the Anthonys recover thousands.

"If you're persistent enough in interfacing with these bureaucracies, ultimately, you can make a difference," she said. "We believe this is really a social justice issue."

Lusero says this epidemic is not limited to child birth, it happens in all aspects of health care. It's just more prevalent in pregnancies, because child birth is the No.1 reason for hospitalization in the country.