Getty Woman in hospital
A New York City woman was sent a huge medical bill after receiving care for her ectopic pregnancy, an instance that shows that cost could be a barrier to care for some women, even in states where abortion is protected.
Sara Laub told Kaiser Health News [KHN] that she did not expect her treatment to be so expensive and time-consuming, or include several trips to the emergency room.
An ectopic pregnancy is rare; it occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, sometimes in a fallopian tube. The Mayo Clinic says these pregnancies “can’t proceed normally” because “the fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated.”
Mayo Clinic adds that if a “fertilized egg continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture,” adding, “Heavy bleeding inside the abdomen is likely.”
About 1 in every 30,000 pregnancies are ectopic, Mayo Clinic states. However, extrauterine pregnancies occur more frequently in women receiving fertility treatments, at about every 1 in 100 pregnancies.
Laub told KHN that she visited Lenox Hill Hospital’s emergency department in New York City where she could either have surgery to remove her fallopian tube or be given an injection of methotrexate, a cancer drug used to end an ectopic pregnancy.
After opting for the injection, she had five follow-up visits to the ER for more injections and blood work before ultimately requiring the surgery. Laub’s total charges for her medical treatment over 12 days reached $80,000, with her out-of-pocket costs being more than $4,000 due to her health care plan.
“As scary as my ordeal felt at the time, I was acutely aware that I was fortunate to have easy access to treatment, and elsewhere women with my condition face much worse experiences,” Laub told KHN, referring to states where treatment for ectopic pregnancies are delayed or banned due to laws enacted after the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
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“On the one hand, I feel grateful that I was able to get treated when I was not in an acute state,” Laub added. “But it’s an awful feeling to know that the decision I made as to the best path forward for care comes at such a high cost.”
Despite New York’s laws that protect abortion, health experts say the charges for the care Laub received don’t align with the actual costs.
WellRithms, a company that analyzes medical bills for self-funded companies, noted that the hospital Laub visited typically charges $12,541 for the surgery but she was charged $45,020 for it, the outlet reports. The cost to the hospital to perform the laparoscopic procedure is about $3,750, the company estimates.
“Hospitals will charge whatever they can,” Jordan Weintraub, vice president of claims at the company, told KHN. “They put it on the payer to deny items rather than billing appropriately.”
Lenox Hill hospital ultimately defended its charges to KHN, as well as the choice to treat Laub in the emergency room, which is more expensive. “Ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening conditions, require close surveillance and management to ensure a successful resolution,” the hospital said. “The emergency setting allows for immediate availability of critical surgical services, as was ultimately necessary in this patient’s case.”
The hospital did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Treatment costs for ectopic pregnancies vary from state to state, and states like New York and California, although they protect abortion rights, currently have some of the most expensive average costs for abortion care.