Skip To Content

    People Are Sharing Their Most Heartbreaking Medical Bill Stories, And It Just Goes To Prove The US Has A Long Way To Go

    "When you’re already dealing with an illness, you shouldn’t need to worry about a bill, too."

    We asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their wildest, most frustrating, and most heartbreaking medical bill stories. Here are the responses that prove the US still has a long way to go:

    Warning: This post discusses suicide.

    1. "I live half a mile from a hospital. That’s right, HALF A MILE. The ambulance insisted they take me to the hospital, so they did. I had great insurance with the state since I was adopted, and this happened a few months before my 18th birthday, so the state was supposed to cover it. My ambulance bill came out to be $10,000 for half a mile. They weren’t even working on me during the ride. Then, they filed the bill after my 18th birthday, so my insurance denied it. Four years later, my mom finally got the state to pay it."


    2. "When my brother was 16, they found six tumors in his neck. They didn't know if they were cancerous or not, but they needed to be removed anyway because they were growing rapidly and pushing against his trachea. They scheduled the surgery and shortly before he went in, they informed my mother that they couldn't proceed with the surgery unless we put down at least a few thousand dollars as payment first. The minimum was somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. They literally would not operate on him until we paid the minimum, despite the tumors being large and aggressive enough to cause difficulty breathing. He was a child. We were lucky enough to get help from my grandparents with payment, but otherwise he may have died."


    3. "I have a condition called gastroparesis, where the stomach becomes paralyzed. It got so bad that I could hardly keep myself nourished. My doctors gave me the option to have a gastric pacemaker placed in my stomach. Since I didn’t really have any options left, I decided to go for it. My bill was $98,000."


    An elderly woman in a hospital bed

    4. "I spent four days in the hospital for a severe case of gallstones that caused a pretty bad case of pancreatitis. I ended up having surgery to take the gallbladder out and an ERCP procedure to remove gallstones from my bile ducts and place a stent for the gallstones that traveled into my liver. Total cost: $142,000. I have decent insurance compared to most, but my out-of-pocket max was still $4,500."

    "I have an HSA that my employer contributes to, which had about $3,000 in it because I hadn't touched it in years, so it was still out-of-pocket $1,500. I realize that I’m SO fortunate to only be responsible for $1,500, but it's still a lot of money for me, and I’m on a payment plan with the hospital for the balance. I’m hoping I don’t have another medical emergency next year, because I definitely can’t afford it after I drained my HSA and am dipping into what little savings I have for this current medical bill."


    5. "Long story short, I tried taking my life and wound up in the psych ward at my college’s university hospital. I was in the ward a total of six days. I didn’t have a single doctor's visit, zero therapist visits, and I took no medication. The only 'visits' I had were with my parents and the social workers who were trying to get me out or relocated. I later got a charge of $40,000 for that stay."


    6. "I contracted Lemierre syndrome in my early 20s. I spent 10 days in the hospital, with three of those in the ICU. I got two MRIs, a CT scan, and two lung taps. I was sent home with oxygen tanks and daily shots to thin a blood clot. I believe the final bill was $198,000."


    A medical bill totaling over $91,000

    7. "We paid $8,000 out-of-pocket for a double mastectomy and reconstruction for my mom’s breast cancer. It would've been $140,000 without insurance."


    8. "My baby was born unexpectedly and very prematurely at 26 weeks. He spent three months in the NICU, and the bill we received at the end of it all was well over $1 million."


    9. "I paid $2,000 for one X-ray and for a doctor to poke my arm for five minutes and tell me it was just a bad sprain. I even had to go buy my own sling because they didn’t send me home with one."


    A close up of a woman's arm in a sling

    10. "A couple years ago, I had outpatient surgery. Combined with all the tests and MRIs, the total cost was around $7,000 after hitting my premium. I might need a surgery that requires two nights in the hospital, and I'm losing sleep not because of the surgery, but in fear of the bill. When you’re already dealing with an illness, you shouldn’t need to worry about a bill, too."


    11. "When I had my wisdom teeth out, they were so impacted that I was in the day stay hospital under anesthesia. I did all the responsible things — checked to make sure my insurance would cover the procedure, etc. I was told I'd just have to pay the $250 copay for hospital admission. Fast-forward two months and I got a bill for $2,600."

    "I went back and forth with the hospital and my insurance. Each just kept saying it was the other’s error, and meanwhile I was concerned the bill would go to collection and hurt my credit. I persisted and finally got someone from my insurance to contact the hospital. It turned out the hospital charged me the surgeon's fee, but that had already been charged to my insurance and paid. So, they tried to charge me twice for the same thing. If it was a $20 charge, I may have just paid it. They probably make so much money from pulling shit like that."


    12. "I was charged $80,000 after giving birth. We were in the hospital for three days."


    A woman holding her newborn after birth in hospital.

    13. "$87,000. I was having unexplained syncope episodes that were believed to be seizures, and I needed to check into the epilepsy monitoring unit for three days."


    14. "My prescription for potassium HC went from $95.49 to $4,112.77. And that was a bargain, because at the drug store two blocks from my home, it increased to over $6,800."


    15. "I was in a psych ward for 7 days. $138,000."


    16. "I had a baby in June of this year. A normal, vaginal delivery with an epidural cost us $35,000. It didn't help that we had to go through IVF in order to conceive. That was another $30,000, WITHOUT help from insurance."


    Me waiting for the US to finally wake up and realize that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege:

    Do you have a frustrating medical bill story to share? Tell us in the comments and your response may be featured in another upcoming BuzzFeed Community post.

    Note: Responses have been edited for length/clarity.