Hi George,
I read Joy Pape’s article in Westiew. My family are longtime residents of Greenwich Village—my wife was born here in 1965 and our first son was delivered by midwives at St. Vincent’s. Although it seems for most that the company is reviving what has been sorely lost, I have to add that my first and only experience with Northwell was a $3637 charge for five stitches to my head!
We even delayed the stitches  for an hour (holding a bloody rag to my head) while the hospital and my insurance company cleared the procedure. My insurance company later told me it was “out of network” (and therefore out of pocket)—which isn’t Northwell’s fault. But charging $3637 for five stitches is very much their fault. I paid the initial ER bill with two credit cards going out the door for $1940. It was suggested to me that I would eventually get a refund. So I was surprised to get a follow up bill three months later for $1697. That brought my total bill for five stitches to $3637. After seven months of calls, Northwell reduced the additional bill to $539.89 for a total of $2479.89. For me and my family of five, Northwell will never be an option.
I think these bills are high because insurance usually pays. But what was not clear to me was that although my insurer, Oscar, said “it would be covered” before the emergency procedure, they really meant covered by my out-of-network $14,500 deductible!
—Steve Hicks

Hi Mr. Hicks,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
 In looking into your bill for our services,  I understand that you have subscribed to a health insurance plan with a high deductible which is why your out of pocket cost is equal to that amount.  We cannot waive or reduce a patient’s deductible as this is dictated by your health insurance plan, however we may be able to provide financial assistance.
 Please understand that bills for emergency departments are billed at emergency department rates. Our rates are similar to that of all emergency departments. With our goal of bringing a full range of medical services downtown we have also opened a number of urgent care centers in Manhattan and two in lower Manhattan not far from the Lenox Health Greenwich Village emergency department. The cost of going to an Urgent Care Center is lower than that of a full emergency department. These centers have lower overhead costs and are appropriate for lower severity level patients. Our emergency department has board certified emergency medicine physicians, specialty trained advanced practice providers and nurses as well as a variety of other specialized staff at all times. We are open 24/7/365, have advanced life support ambulances on site, have advanced diagnostic equipment such as Cat Scan machines, digital X-Ray units, Ultrasound units, onsite laboratory and pharmacy and we are a sexual assault forensic examination certified facility. We are currently helping over thirty six thousand patients per year and have saved many lives. We do also see a large number of patients who do not have an ability to pay. We see every patient regardless of their ability to pay.
 If you have challenges in paying your bill we would be more than happy to help you with our very robust financial assistance plan. Our financial services at 877-449-0828 can work with you by creating a payment arrangement plan.
— Alex Hellinger, Executive Director
Lenox Health Greenwich Village

I am very impressed with your bravery and competence in responding to this complaint—we will of course print it in the December issue.
Hi Alex,
I’m not as impressed with this response as George is. To respond to a complaint of $500 per stitch  (by a longtime resident of the Village whose first son was birthed across the street) by essentially saying that this is what all ERs do, is thin and insensitive. You suggest that my and my children’s future stitches should bankroll the more expensive operations that you can’t afford. Basically you’re saying you aren’t for normal community emergencies anymore.
As you know I sat in the waiting room for over an hour with a bloody rag on my head while your administrators spoke with my insurance company. At no point did they make the suggestion that you now do about going down the street to urgent care. Until now I’ve not been aware of that option for stitches.
—Steve Hicks

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