Local father furious about huge bill for 1-minute ER visit

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LONE TREE, Colo. – A local father is furious after he says he was charged thousands for an emergency room visit for his daughter that lasted less than one minute.

"Oh, I was upset," Todd Murphy told the Problem Solvers. "Quite frankly, I was fit to be tied."

The family's ordeal began in 2018, a day after his daughter Mikayla's high school graduation party.

One of the family's dogs bit Mikayla's lip, removing a chunk of it.

"All heck broke loose in the household," Todd said. "All the girls were crying, my wife was crying and screaming. I was very upset."

The ER visit was much more upsetting for Todd.

Todd took Mikayla to the UCHealth stand-alone emergency room in Highlands Ranch.

He told the Problem Solvers Mikayla was waiting inside her room for close to 20 minutes and saw the doctor for about 30 seconds because he quickly referred them to a hospital with a plastic surgeon.

"There was zero treatment," Todd said. "No tools or procedures."

Later, Todd was shocked when he received an ER bill for more than $5,600. After insurance paid a portion of it, he was left with a $450 copay.

Todd said he expected the visit to cost a few hundred dollars, but not a few thousand dollars.

He is not the only one who is surprised and frustrated.

The Problem Solvers discovered emergency room visit costs have soared, 36 percent since 2013.

"Honestly, I’m not surprised at all," said Daniel Lynch, a medical billing expert and with Medical Bill Gurus. "The reality is, when you walk into a hospital -- whether it’s a bag of saline or just a doctor consult -- it’s going to be hundreds if not thousands of dollars."

UCHealth told the Problem Solvers it couldn't comment on the Murphys' case because of patient privacy laws.

A  spokesperson said that in general, there are costs at emergency rooms for a doctor to see a patient for any period of time and for work they do behind the scenes, such as reviewing records and making referrals.

Patient advocates say avoiding emergency rooms when possible and using urgent care instead can save hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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