My midwife in Alexandria referred me to the George Washington University Hospital for an external cephalic version (ECV) to turn my breech baby “head down.” We arrived early one morning for the outpatient procedure. During our three hour stay, the hospital placed us in a large room with multiple curtained-off areas. Despite our request to hold off on an IV needle, the nurse inserted a needle “in case we needed it later.”

After spilling my blood and changing the sheets, we were left under a fetal heart rate and contraction monitor. Per their protocol, GW also tested me for my blood type (the answer was in my midwifery chart) and for COVID-19. We did not use any IV fluids, medication, or other inventions. The ECV doctor came and successfully performed the ECV (which is done with his hands alone) and then they monitored the baby’s heart rate and contractions for an additional 30 minutes to ensure the baby was okay. 

Two days later, my husband and I were shocked to receive two bills from George Washington University Hospital. The first, from the doctor who performed the ECV, was less than $1,000 before insurance and covered the ECV procedure that he performed.

The second bill was an outrageous $16,514 for GW’s “services.”

What’s worse, the breakdown of the bill included twelve charges for “SURGERY” with varying costs of $101 to $11,425 each. After insurance, we were still left with a “discount” of $2,321. Instead of breaking down what each “surgery” was, the bill merely provided costs and the occasional code. As I examined the bill, I was at a loss for what “twelve” surgeries the hospital performed on us in our three-hour stay.

The hospital knew we needed the ECV, a service that they uniquely offered in our area, but does this justify overcharging patients who use only the bare minimum of services: COVID-19 test, blood test, and baby monitoring? We were not told ahead of time what this would cost, nor were we prepared for the cost of accessing basic healthcare services.