Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Isn't there a law that makes it illegal to charge exorbitant prices for for things?

Asked by Dutchess_III (44145points) January 8th, 2018

The hospital charged me a seriously unconscionable amount for an arm brace they made for me. It’s $5.00 worth of neoprene and Velcro. Took the lady 10 minutes to make it…and they charged me $700!! Can they do that??

The worst part is they don’t tell you ahead of time what it’s going to cost.

unconscionable: unethical, amoral, immoral, unprincipled, indefensible, unforgivable, wrong, unscrupulous, unfair, underhanded, dishonorable.

a : shockingly unfair or unjust

b : excessive, unreasonable

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20 Answers

janbb's avatar

There isn’t a law but if you call the hospital billing department and jump up and down they may negotiate a lower price for you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Here is the legal definition of unconscionable. But I guess it only applies to contracts. But isn’t purchasing something considered a contract of some kind?

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Welcome to the private health care system.
Doesn’t your health care insurance cover any of it??

ragingloli's avatar

In Germany, §138 BGB.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

The closest I can find is that they have usery laws for charging interest over 60%.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They applied it to my $1000 deductible @SQUEEKY2, because it’s a “medical device.” So no. Insurance didn’t cover any of it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How much is §138 BGB @ragingloli?

ragingloli's avatar

“Section 138
Legal transaction contrary to public policy; usury

(1) A legal transaction which is contrary to public policy is void.

(2) In particular, a legal transaction is void by which a person, by exploiting the predicament, inexperience, lack of sound judgement or considerable weakness of will of another, causes himself or a third party, in exchange for an act of performance, to be promised or granted pecuniary advantages which are clearly disproportionate to the performance.”

ragingloli's avatar

Though “public policy” should be more accurately translated as “common customs” or “common morals”.

Zaku's avatar

It shouldn’t be legal for them to charge you for something without you knowing the price and agreeing to it. But they kind of have people at a disadvantage when they need health care, and may have something in the intake forms that has you waive some rights, maybe… or maybe they just get away with the normalization of it and their institutional aura of authority that they haven’t needed to do that.

But ya, I think you should always have the right to say no when you find out the price.

zenvelo's avatar

Sounds about the going rate for a medical device. You got it applied against your deductible In the first eight days of the year, so you might be all done with out of pocket for 2018 fairly early!

Last year I didn’t cover my annual out of pocket until June, when an angiogram (and two stents) ended up being $84,000.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It was in December…..The last month of the year. I still don’t understand it.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@zenvelo Just a thought but the average price of private (ie not NHS) angiogram and stenting is about £3–4k in the UK. Even with flights and accommodation it would probably be cheaper to have it done abroad.

elbanditoroso's avatar

You’re asking a general question and then tying it down with specifics.

1) No. In general there is no law that restricts or limits a price that can be charged for an item or service. This is capitalism – as a merchant, you can charge what the market will bear. If you want to charge $30 for a bottle of water (like shopkeepers did during the hurricanes last summer) and someone is willing to pay that amount, then it is a deal between the two parties regardless of the price.


2) There are certain regulated industries that can and do have price controls. Sadly, hospitals and pharmaceuticals are not included in those industries.


In the long run price controls don’t work for society, because they distort the capitalist system and create false valuations. Remember the Nixon era (1970) price and wage freezes? They solved an acute short term problem for a couple of months. But they made the longer term problem even worse. read the history

zenvelo's avatar

@Lightlyseared Yes, and a week in London to boot would have been cheaper and much more enjoyable. But funny thing about healthcare: one cannot comparison shop when one is on the table in a gown with a catheter stuck up one’s femoral artery.

That is why health care is not a market. The information is grossly imperfect and one usually has no choice of provider at the time of need.

LostInParadise's avatar

The closest I could find are laws against price gouging during an emergency. Link

stanleybmanly's avatar

Our hospitals are pretty much licensed to steal. It’s a good bet that not a single individual involved in fabricating or applying that brace had a clue as to what you would be charged for it.

Way back in 1976, I broke my ankle in a motorcycle accident. I wound up with a full leg cast. There are lot of memories of that ordeal but the final one is about the young orthopedic surgeon eagerly removing my cast to inspect his masterpiece. He opened a drawer in a steel
cabinet beside the stool on which he sat, reached into the drawer and retrieved a brand new pair of long stainless steel
german made surgical scissors, removed them from their packaging, then cut away my cast and tossed the scissors into a small metal waste can that rang with a clang. I yelled “Are you crazy?” and startled him as I damned near dove into that can to recover those scissors. As he went about examining his work and manipulating my foot, I blurted out “what else do you have to throw away? Let me help you out.” I still have the scissors in my sewing kit.

Dutchess_III's avatar

SMH!! It’s insane.

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