First Person: A Crayon Cost Us $1,527

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Unexpected medical costs can strike anytime. Even a little bit of crayon can blow your budget and cause financial strain, in addition to mental and physical trauma. In our case, it cost $1527 in unexpected medical costs, for us and our insurance company.

Night time emergency

Once my son, then three years old, sleepily walked into our living room and informed us he had a crayon stuck up his nose. It was 10:30 p.m. He did not seem in pain, and then was no telling signs of trauma.

Is it really there?

We lay him down and shone a flashlight. I was not sure I could see anything. He was in discomfort, not pain, but he was getting alarmed at the attention. I started asking questions, like what color the crayon was, and where the rest of it was. Unfortunately, my son picked out a navy blue crayon, which coincidentally was missing its tip. We asked him to blow, and sneeze, but nothing came out.

Decision to go to hospital emergency room

I could still not see inside his nose, so using tweezer was out of the question. I wished it was daytime, when the pediatrician's office, ENT specialists, or our urgent care facility would be open, since it would be more cost and time effective. I did not want my son to end up like Homer Simpson. Our on-call pediatrician recommended we take him to the closest ER.

Payment even without success

By the time my son checked into triage, he was getting quite alarmed. He started saying there was nothing in his nose, and he wanted to go home. Unfortunately, the ER was not for pediatric patients, and the nurses and doctors could not calm him down. After some prodding, and subsequent trauma (epistaxis), they sent us home. The discharge papers said to come back if the condition worsened. We were out of one co-pay, and my son still had a crayon up his nose.

Deja vu

When my son fell asleep at home, I checked with the flashlight again. This time, my husband and I both saw the foreign object lodged deep inside his nose. It was past midnight, but I decided we should go back to the ER, since there was a risk my son might inhale it. The hospital checked us in again (co-pay #2), and after struggling with my son, a new resident failed to get the foreign object out of my son's nose since it was too inflamed. As a courtesy, the hospital made an appointment with the local ENT specialist for the morning.

Success in the morning

The morning brought good news. I found a triangular piece of navy blue crayon on his bedsheet. Even then, I took him to see the ENT specialist, who was able to get a clear view of his nose (on camera) and confirm that no foreign object remained.

The medical bills

My insurance received two claims from the hospital. The insurance paid $1202 for the two claims without question, while the burden of paying two co-pays rested on us. In addition, the insurance paid $250 to the ENT specialist, and our co-pay was $25. The hospital initially argued they two visits were separate, since they were on two dates, but later waived one co-pay when I explained the situation in writing. In the end, the insurance company paid $1452, while we paid $75, for a grand total of $1527. Thank god for the emergency fund!

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