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Woman shocked after being charged $40 for ‘crying’ at doctors appointment

‘Tell me you live in America without telling me that you live in America’

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 18 May 2022 20:24 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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A woman’s tweet has gone viral after she shared a picture of her sister’s medical bill from a recent doctor’s visit, in which she claims that her sister was charged $40 for crying during the appointment.

Camille Johnson is a 25-year-old content creator living in Brooklyn, New York. On Monday, she tweeted a picture of her sister’s medical bill, which has since gained more than 340k likes and 55k retweets.

“My little sister has been really struggling with a health condition lately and finally got to see a doctor,” she wrote. “They charged her $40 for crying.”

The itemised medical bill showed that Johnson’s sister had visited the doctor in January, after living with a “rare disease” and “struggling to find care” for her condition. The various costs of the doctor’s visit included a vision assessment test priced at $20, a $15 hemoglobin test, a capillary blood draw for $30, and a preventative health screening which cost $350. But what caught Johnson’s attention was the $40 charge for a “brief emotional/behavioral assessment”.

“One tear in and they charged her $40 without addressing why she is crying, trying to help, doing any evaluation, any prescription, nothing,” Johnson said.

A brief emotional/behavioral assessment is a mental health screening identified by healthcare professionals with CPT code 96127. The brief assessment screens for signs of ADHD, depression, anxiety, suicidal risk, or substance abuse. Physicians have been allowed to charge for the screening since early 2015, when it became a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act to expand mental health services.

However, according to Johnson, her sister was not evaluated despite being charged $40 for the assessment. Speaking to The Independent, Johnson explained that the doctor at the unnamed healthcare facility saw her sister crying and did nothing to help.

“They did not evaluate her for depression or other mental illnesses, nor did they discuss her mental health with her,” Johnson said. “She never talked to a specialist, was not referred to anyone, not prescribed anything, and they did nothing to assist with her mental health.”

Fortunately, Johnson’s younger sister was covered by her father’s insurance plan, which helped pay for the medical services. Not many people could say the same.

The viral tweet has prompted other social media users to share their own experiences with overcharged medical bills, while others offered tips and advice on how to negotiate hospital bills. In the US, public healthcare such as Medicare – or private health insurance from an employer – can often cover most but not all medical services, leaving patients to foot the rest of the bill.

“When I got surgery this past June to remove a tumor, I asked them what ‘Women’s services’ was for. It was for the pregnancy test they administered,” one person shared. “$1,902 to pee and for them to dip a stick into it. Thankfully most was covered by insurance but geez”.

“Tell me you live in America without telling me that you live in America,” another person replied.

One Twitter user explained how they used to work in a doctor’s office that would charge patients for asking what medications they were prescribed to, and marked it as “medication reconciliation” on their bill.

“I quit that place because I felt uncomfortable billing for things like ‘education’ when it was their job to literally tell people what’s wrong,” they said.

For Johnson, she hopes sharing her sister’s medical bill online can help change how the US healthcare system treats others. “We need a drastic change in the healthcare industry and I thought that sharing a real life story online would be a good way to open up the conversation and help advocate for change,” she said. “I really hope this tweet can incite improvement in our healthcare system as well as be a warning for the future.”

In September 2021, a woman’s medical bill also went viral on Twitter when she was charged an extra $11 for “Brief Emotion” during a mole removal. She had received a depression screening test during a routine annual physical, but wasn’t aware that her insurance didn’t cover the mental health questionnaire.

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