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LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- When Brielle Cartolano walked out of a Lakewood urgent care in early September, she thought she had a pretty good idea what it was going to cost.
"They estimated me as a Level 3 emergency and the price was $1,900, and that’s really what I left with thinking that day,” Cartolano said.
Cartolano received three hours of treatment for excessive vomiting at the Centura Emergency and Urgent Care Lakewood.
“I have these vomiting episodes randomly. I’ll be perfectly healthy and fine and I just wake up (and) I can’t stop vomiting,” Cartolano said of why she was seeking treatment.
She arrived just before the standard hours began.
“They said to me, 'you’re too early for urgent care hours you have to go into emergency level care.' I said, 'OK, what does that mean to me? What is the level price?' They couldn’t tell me so of course I just went for it,” Cartolano said.
During her time there, she received different medications for the nausea and dehydration, including four IVs. Cartolano didn't receive a diagnosis but she did receive an estimate for the care at $1,900.
A few weeks later the actual bill came back for $20,654, capping Cartolano’s insurance deductible at $6,000. The largest charge on the bill was for $13,010.53 for Level 5 care.
“Why was I discharged at a Level 3 and why does my bill say a level five?" she asked.
The levels are based on a point system based on severity and amount of treatment. Centura Health does not have the point system breakdown on their website when we asked to see it.
Adela Flores-Brennan is the executive director of Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. She says the healthcare advocacy group tends to see this.
“We do see folks have gone to urgent care or emergency room with an issue and then when they get the bill, they are surprised by the level of urgency that is reflected in that bill,” Flores-Brennan said.
Some hospitals, like Centura Health, have their own grievance process. A Centura spokesperson says, "we are doing a clinical audit on her documentation to ensure billing accuracy"
Flores-Brennan recommends taking that process a step further.
“Yes, go through the hospitals grievance system but also, I think, it’s important to go through the regulating authority so in this case, it would be the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Flores-Brennan told Denver7.