Then a nurse cleaned out the cut with saline and put a bandage on it. Haselhoff's son was also given a Tylenol.
And that was it.
The bill arrived in March. The hospital charged $271.90 for the X-ray. It charged $266.50 for the saline used to clean the cut. It charged $348 for the bandage. It charged not $500 but $661 for "emergency services." And there was a $28 charge for "miscellaneous services," whatever those might be.
The only bargain: a $1 charge for the Tylenol, although 200 caplets of the generic equivalent can be purchased at Wal-Mart for just $4.
Haselhoff believed her family was well-insured through her husband's job. But each family member's coverage comes with a $1,200 deductible, meaning that's how much of the $1,700 bill she had to pay. Her insurer, Aetna, paid the remainder.
Of course, Haselhoff has no regrets about her decision to take her son to the hospital. But she wishes she'd have had a better idea in advance about how much she'd be charged for what was, by any reckoning, a modest dose of medicine.
She also wonders how the bill could have soared so high for treatment that, except for the X-ray, she basically could have done herself at home.
That $266.50 charge for 500 milliliters of saline? You can find that same amount online for about $40.
Edward Barrera, a spokesman for Encino Hospital, said he was unable to discuss Haselhoff's case because of privacy reasons. But he said a lot of factors go into medical pricing.
"Charges are based on both historical data and negotiated payments" by insurers, Barrera said. "Hospital charges also reflect the individual hospital's mission, the patient population it serves and the subsidies necessary to provide essential public services."
There's a lot that's wrong with our healthcare system. Bringing true costs into the sunlight would be an important step toward making the system fairer and more accessible.
If hospitals and insurers won't introduce more transparency to medical pricing, this is clearly an area where federal authorities can act in the public's best interest.