Snakebite victim charged $89,000 for 18-hour hospital stay

A snakebite victim who was treated at a North Carolina hospital came away with more than just fang marks when he received an $89,227 bill for an 18-hour stay.

Eric Ferguson, 54, from Mooresville, N.C., told Charlotte Observer medical writer Karen Garloch that he got the staggering bill for his visit to Lake Norman Regional Center after a snake bit him in the foot while he was taking out the garbage.

According to his bill, the hospital charged a whopping $81,000 for a four-vial dose of anti-venom medicine.

For comparison, Ferguson and his wife found the same vials online for retail prices as low as $750.

Ferguson, who is insured, told the Observer his care was "beyond phenomenal."

"It was just the sticker shock," he said.

The hospital reduced the bill to $20,227 because of a contract with Ferguson's insurer. In the end, he paid $5,400 of his own money for his deductible and co-pay.

The hospital defended its prices, saying it has to charge prices higher than retail because of the various discounts it is required to give insurers.

The Fergusons' case is, of course, not unique. A 2013 cover story by Steven Brill in Time magazine ("Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us") detailed the "outrageous pricing and egregious profits" destroying the U.S. health care system, noting that Americans were expected to spend an estimated $2.8 trillion on health care last year.