Alice Ligon, a Cary real estate appraiser, was referred to Rex’s Pain Management Clinic in 2009 for neck pain from a degenerated disk. At her first visit, a doctor recommended steroid injections. She returned another day for the injections, which took a few minutes. The nurse asked her to stay seated for 10 minutes in case she got lightheaded, she said.
The doctor billed her $150 for the first visit. The second set of bills was the shocker. Her doctor billed her $425: $325 for administering the shots and $100 for the office visit. Then, Rex charged her $569.75: The drugs cost $52.75; the pain clinic cost $301; the recovery room was $216.
Ligon was livid, feeling she was being double-billed for the $100 office visit and the $301 pain clinic. But the worst was the “recovery room,” where she remained seated for 10 minutes in the same room.
“Rex charged me $200 and more just to sit in the same chair and in the same room while the girl did stuff on the computer,” Ligon said. “I got screwed.”
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Rex told her on both visits that her insurance covered her care, Ligon said. But Blue Cross paid only $15.17 on the first visit, saying the procedure hadn’t been authorized.
She filed a complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office. Rex’s response: The fees were accurate and appropriate.
Ligon paid the entire Rex bill of $569.75. Given that the hospital’s costs are 30 percent of charges, Rex made a profit of $398.82. Ligon also paid the doctor $535.96 for the two bills that totaled $575.
“The consumer has nowhere to go,” Ligon said. “If you don’t pay, the hospital reports you to collections, and your credit is ruined.”
After The N&O asked about Ligon’s case, Rex changed its billing policy, combining the pain clinic charge ($301) and recovery room charge ($216) into one charge of $495, a reduction of $22. The policy only applies to future cases; Ligon did not receive a refund.
Staff writer Joseph Neff