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Pneumonia was bad enough, but a $44-million medical bill?

January 16, 2012 |  7:54 am

Medical bill illustration

Alexis Rodriguez survived his bout with pneumonia, but the medical bill -- more than $44 million -- nearly did him in.

Rodriguez actually owed about $300 for the out-patient care he received at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York City last week, the Daily News reported Monday, but billing errors threatened to send him and hundreds of other people back to the emergency room after they received inflated bills.

"I almost had an asthma attack," Rodriguez, 28, told the paper. The total bill he received in the mail last week came to $44,776,587. The hospital said the problem was with its billing company. Somehow the invoice numbers were inserted in the space for the amount owed, leading to hundreds of panicked phone calls from patients.

Rodriguez and the others were assured that they would receive new, presumably proper, bills within a few days, but the question remained: How did such an error get past so many people, ending up in the mailboxes of people like Rodriguez?

"You can't blame the error on a machine ... some human had to put the details in there," one reader wrote on the Daily News' website.

Rodriguez agreed. "I understand manpower may be down, but to send out a lot of bills with numbers that big -- someone could have had a heart attack."

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-- Tina Susman in New York

Photo illustration: Stephen Sedam / Los Angeles Times

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