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In America, it can cost $25,000 to get treated for strep throat


(Marketwatch) – Surprise medical bills can leave you speechless. It probably didn’t help that Alexa Kasdan, 40, a public-policy consultant from New York City, already had a cold and a sore throat.

Kasdan told “Bill of the Month,” a joint project between NPR and Kaiser Health News, that she went to a specialty care clinic on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to get checked out.

The office, according to NPR, took a swab from her throat and a vial of blood and gave her a prescription for antibiotics to take with her on vacation. She felt better in a matter of days.

Last October, she got the bill: $28,395.50. Her health-insurance company wrote a check for $25,865.24. The reason? Both the clinic and the laboratory that conducted the tests were out of network.

The laboratory, which conducted an array of tests for viruses and influenza and even DNA analysis, also had the same phone number and address as the doctor’s office Kasdan attended that day.

“I couldn’t fathom in what universe I would go to a doctor for a strep-throat culture and some antibiotics and I would end up with a $25,000 bill,” she told NPR and Kaiser Health News.

An in-network throat swab and tests would have cost her approximately $600. The average co-pay for a specialist is $30 to $50. The $25,000 bill even puts this $887 flu test in perspective.

It’s getting more difficult to find in-network clinics. Office visits to primary-care physicians declined 18% over a four-year period for adults under 65, according to the independent nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute, which is partly funded by four health-insurance companies that provide claims data.

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