Patient received $13K bill after donating his kidney

Although living organ donors are not supposed to receive bills for transplant-related care, a Nevada man received a $13,064 medical bill after he donated his kidney, ProPublica reported Feb. 11. 

Before Elliot Malin donated his kidney to his 28-year-old cousin Scott Kline in July 2021, he was assured he wouldn't foot the bill for the $160,000 surgery. The hospital received preauthorization from Mr. Kline's insurance plan, which confirmed it would cover Mr. Malin's medical costs. 

Despite the assurance, in September 2021, Mr. Malin received a $13,064 bill for anesthesia services. While shocked by the amount, Mr. Malin notified the hospital and forgot about the bill, he told ProPublica

A month later a second notice arrived. Then on Dec. 6, 2021, a notice arrived that threatened "further collection activity" on the outstanding bill.

"Final Notice! Your account is now considered delinquent," the notice read, according to ProPublica

The bill and notice was from NorthStar Anesthesia, the firm that provides anesthesia services at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where the transplant took place. 

Mr. Malin said on Dec. 7, 2021, he called NorthStar Anesthesia, the billing company and Baylor Scott & White to resolve the issue. He also complained on Twitter about the aggressive billing practice. He told ProPublica two weeks later that there was nothing else he could do and was waiting to see if he was sent to collections.

Mr. Malin reportedly heard nothing from either party until Jan. 19, one day after ProPublica reached out to NorthStar Anesthesia for comment.

"The CFO of NorthStar just called me and told me she's taken care of the bill," Mr. Malin told ProPublica on Jan. 19.  

On Jan. 20, NorthStar Anesthesia emailed Mr. Malin to let him know he would not be responsible for the bill, that he was not sent to collections and that his credit wouldn't be hit.

"On behalf of NorthStar, I apologize for causing any confusion or concern for you regarding this matter and assure you that it has been resolved," Kate Stets, the company's CFO told Mr. Malin. 

Ms. Stets said that on Dec. 7, 2021, the bill was sent to the responsible parties, but Mr. Malin was not notified. 

Ms. Stets also said the company adjusted its policy to prevent a similar instance from happening in future transplant cases.

"To be clear, it is not NorthStar’s policy to bill transplant donors for bills related to their donation surgeries," Ms. Stets wrote, according to ProPublica. "We recognize the well-established public policy standard and practice that transplant donors should not be billed for such services — that we and the nation's healthcare system have a responsibility to foster and encourage such acts of selflessness and generosity."

NorthStar Anesthesia told ProPublica that it "resolved the error immediately" and closed the account "prior to any inquiry from ProPublica." The company added that although healthcare billing can be complex, "these occurrences are rare."

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