$800 to use a sink: Family outraged by ER overcharge

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Overbilled and underserved. That’s how a local family describes their recent visit to a hospital emergency room. Chief investigator Darcy Spears reports on why the family says they got better medical care at a gas station.

When Brianna Lee isn’t playing soccer, the nine-year-old girl scout likes to help her parents, but that help recently turned to hurt. What happened to her could have happened to anyone. Brianna’s mom was showing her how to pump gas and when Brianna went to remove the nozzle some gasoline splashed into her eyes.

Brianna’s eyes were burning and her mother raced her into the gas station restroom where they flushed her eye. But the burning persisted.

“It was actually kind of scary because my mom didn’t want my vision to go away and I was scared that I wouldn’t have good vision anymore,” Brianna said.

Fearing a chemical burn they went to the emergency room at Centennial Hills Hospital where records show they were told to spend more time washing Brianna’s eyes.

“The eyewash station was too unsanitary and was too dirty so they couldn’t use it,” Brianna’s father Ronnie Lee told us. It’s a fact that’s documented in her medical record.

“For the emergency room not to be properly equipped, not to be ready to process any type of emergency that comes in, is scary!”

Because the eyewash station was dirty, Brianna was sent to a regular sink and her mom rinsed her eyes.

Centennial declined an interview but reponded via email that they are reviewing the circumstances surrounding this matter to ensure that proper procedures are followed.

Ronnie says they got more help at the gas station, “there I actually had an eyewash, which they didn’t charge me anything for.”

The Lees received two bills:

$600 from Centennial Hills Hospital
$800 from the ER doctor

Beth Petschauer is a certified professional medical billing coder and auditor who’s helped the state medical board with investigations. She says Brianna’s records raise red flags.

“There’s documentation in the medical records that makes me question whether or not the provider actually performed the services that he’s billing for,” Petschauer said.

“The doctor really didn’t do anything. He walked in the room and he said that I need an eyewash station and he walked out. And that’s pretty much all he did and I didn’t see him after that,” Brianna added.

The doctor’s notes confirm that the family was sent to a sink then became disappointed in their care and left. But in the record, the doctor claims he did a complete review of body systems and a full physical exam.

According to Petschauer, “It would either be that the provider just automatically clicked on each of the things as if he did them, or he’s padding the note in an attempt to get further additional funds. Level 3 and 4 are moderate where there’s more testing required.”

The doctor billed Brianna’s care as level 3. Petschauer says her record shows something called “upcoding” and that it’s an industry-wide problem.