California hospital reverses $15,666 trauma fee for baby who napped, drank formula in ER

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital agreed to waive a $15,666 trauma response fee it charged a vacationing South Korean family after their son, who had experienced a fall, received no critical care but slept and drank formula in the hospital's emergency room, according to Vox.

Jang Yeo-im called an ambulance after her son Park Jeong-whan fell 3 feet off a hotel bed. Despite little outward injury, her son was inconsolable and she feared he might have internal injuries. During the three-hour and 22-minute visit at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, a triage nurse evaluated Jang Yeo-im's son and sent him to an emergency department resuscitation bay. Aside from minor bruising to his nose and forehead, the baby did not show any signs of major injury and was not given any critical care. During his time at the hospital, he took a quick nap, drank formula and was transferred to an exam room for observation before being released.

When the family, which had travel insurance covering $5,000 of treatment, received the final $18,836 bill two years later, most of the charge reflected a $15,666 trauma response fee. Patients face trauma fees when they present to the emergency room with potential serious injuries and the trauma center assembles a team of physicians to respond. Trauma fees are billed in addition to ER physician, procedure, equipment and facility fees.

Vox, in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reported the story June 28. On July 20, after the hospital conducted a clinical review of the case, Zuckerberg San Francisco General reversed the charge. A patient experience manager issued "a sincere apology for any distress the family experienced over this bill." The hospital manager told Vox/KHN the case "offered us an opportunity to review our system and consider changes."

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