SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A local Mercy patient awaiting surgery this Friday turned to KOLR 10 Investigates after her bill more than tripled from almost $4,000 to nearly $14,000.
Documents show from March to August, Karen Beahan’s quote from Mercy increased by nearly $10,000 for the exact same postponed elective surgery. Beahan filed grievances with the hospital, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and contacted several state lawmakers.
Unable to get a resolution, that’s when Beahan called us.
“$10,000 is a lot of money and it needs to be explained,” said Behan. “I don’t understand why they can charge this.”
Earlier this year, Beahan scheduled an elective surgery not covered by insurance. Her surgeon uses Mercy’s operating room for procedures. In March, documents show Mercy quoted $3,912 for the use of its operating room and anesthesia. But when Beahan needed to postpone the surgery and went back for an updated quote in August, it had more than tripled to a new total price of $13,625.
Her billing paperwork specifices that the quote she received in March was only good for 90 days. Beahan said she would be understanding if the price increase wasn’t so drastic.
“If they want to go up 2, 3, 4, $500, I’m good with that,” she said. “Because it will tell you right on here, it’s a 90-day guarantee of that price. That was in March and now we’re in August, so it’s beyond the timeline.”
The Mercy estimate cites new hospital rates as of July 1. The rate change reflects a 72% increase for anesthesia and a 345% increase for the facility fee.
A new federal law passed in 2021 mandates hospitals provide clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide; we looked through Mercy’s website and couldn’t find any reference to a July 1 rate change mentioned on Beahan’s billing document.
Mercy once again declined to interview on the rate change.
KOLR 10 Investigates sent dozens of texts, emails, and voicemails, but Mercy declined to comment on the price inconsistencies for Beahan’s upcoming surgery. We asked the hospital if there was a reason for the decision not to comment. Mercy did not respond.
Then, after weeks of the investigative team pushing for an explanation, Mercy redacted its price increase altogether.
“I was expecting her to say the [price was still] $13,625, and that’s the reason I had to ask her to repeat it,” said Beahan.
She settled and plans to go through with the surgery on Friday, still skeptical about the final cost.
“I still don’t understand it and I still haven’t gotten a call,” she said.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services advises patients to file grievances with hospitals if there’s a major billing issue, which Beahan did. Legally, hospitals in Missouri have to respond to grievances within a “reasonable” timeframe, which is typically between a week and a month.
If you have a story tip you’d like KOLR 10 Investigates to look into, email Investigative Reporter Lauren Barnas at firstname.lastname@example.org.