How the seemingly largest hospital bill came to be

It may be the largest hospital bill ever. Estimated at $9.2 million, including interest, the bill is from Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital for the care of deceased Tameka Jaqway Campwell.

Although the American Hospital Association, the Health Care Financial Management Association, and even the Guinness Book of Records couldn't confirm the highest hospital bill in history, according to Associated Press (AP), the $9.2 million in charges for one patient certainly draws questions into high healthcare costs and end-of-life decision making.

Campwell had an incurable disease, progressive demyelinating neuropathy. The patient's mother Holly Bennett accused the hospital of not feeding her daughter and giving her too much morphine, which, she claimed, resulted in the patient's weight falling to 37 pounds, reports the AP. Campwell died two years ago.

The hospital is suing the patient's estate for the outstanding bill.

"If they think they're getting money from me, they're crazy," Bennett said in the article. "Who's ever even heard of a bill that high?"

Although the hospital charges will likely drop to $2.25 million after readjustments, Bennett told ABC News she would not pay the multimillion-dollar bill. She said that she never received an itemized bill during the five years of treatment and that the lawsuit is a strategy to prevent her from filing her own lawsuit for medical malpractice against the hospital.

A frequent complaint from patients and providers alike, patients often do not understand the associated costs for tests and care with no clear prices for services.

"This is tragic," said Alan Sager, a professor of health policy and management at Boston University School of Public Health, in the ABC article. "A patient apparently received costly care that might have made her more comfortable--and might have slowed the progression of her illness, but these interventions apparently could do little more than slow a steep decline."

Hospital palliative care has doubled in the past decade, ranking as one of the fastest growing specialties with 63 percent of U.S. hospitals using palliative programs. According to a Center to Advance Palliative Care report this month, there are 1,568 palliative teams at nationwide hospitals, up from just 658 in 2000.

For more information:
- read the AP article
- read the ABC article

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