'Want To Cry': Bill for Uninsured Hospital Stay in Italy Stuns Americans

The disparity between the charges incurred by patients in the U.S. compared with other countries was thrown into sharp focus after a man who underwent surgery and spent a week in an Italian hospital without insurance shared a screenshot of his total bill.

The Italian national, posting to Reddit as byJoi, told Newsweek he suffered a series of bone, ligament and tendon injuries around one of his knees while skiing with friends in the Alps.

"I was immediately brought into the ER, got an MRI and was then scheduled for surgery," he said. ByJoi said he went on to spend a week in the hospital while he recovered and has also undergone physiotherapy since the accident.

At the time, he had feared his medical costs would be substantial as he had no form of insurance when the accident occurred. However, when he eventually got the bill, he was relieved and delighted to see it was just €53.78, which equates to $56.53.

"An injury like this is already a very annoying thing to happen to you. I am very glad I didn't also have to pay absurd amounts of money because of it," he said. "I am very happy to be a European citizen."

ByJoi said he decided to share a screenshot of the bill to Reddit after seeing "an extremely high medical bill from a U.S. movie." The post was subsequently upvoted 88,000 times. Several stories have hit the headlines in recent months detailing instances in which U.S. citizens have been left facing huge bills, whether insured or not.

One woman was hit with a six-figure bill after initially being told her surgery would cost just over $1,000. In that instance, she was able to appeal the decision and won but others have not been so fortunate.

One woman was billed $600 for her son who lived for only three minutes and received no care. Meanwhile, a thread detailing the scary cost of U.S. health insurance went viral back in April.

One Reddit user's hospital bill from Italy.
One Reddit user's hospital bill from Italy - the low cost bill sparked anger among American users byJoi/Reddit

Little wonder then that a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center back in 2020 found 36 percent of Americans were in favor of a single national government program for health insurance coverage while 26 percent called for a mix of private and government programs.

If any further reminding was needed, ByJoi's bill provided it, with many Americans on social media reacting with despair at the contrast in charges.

Glasman88 commented: "That is so amazing, here in the U.S. I was in the ER for 2 hours... $14,900 before insurance, my out-of-pocket was $2,900 and they want the total balance in 12 months."

90brabus said: "I can't imagine living in a country like that to be honest. I would get stressed every time I got a fever" while Kaizenno added: "I had an ER bill that I was there a total of 15 minutes and the doctor said to just call my regular doctor, $1000."

Jonker5101 wrote: "I went to the ER for an infected abscess last year. Just had to get it lanced and drained. Was there for about 12 hours because I went in at night and had to wait for the doc the next day. $51,000 before insurance, I owed about $4,500 out of pocket. Still paying it off."

Pfft_jackee, meanwhile commented: "This makes me want to cry. I had a 3-month hospital stay and major heart surgery and thank god I had good insurance from my parents because the total was over $3,000,000. My part to pay was $15,000. God the US sucks at health care."

ByJo told Newsweek it was "crazy" that people could end up losing their life savings "simply by having an accident." He said |imagining having to pay thousands out of pocket even with insurance is a scary thought."

"The system needs to be adapted to the 21st century as soon as possible," he added. "For me the prices on US medical bills just seem insane. How can a bandage cost hundreds of dollars? It all seems very capitalized and profit-based."

He also claimed that "free healthcare greatly increases quality of life" in countries like Italy. "Our health is not something we worry about here. We know that if something happens, it doesn't matter who we are, we will always get quick and high-quality help."

Ultimately, while his medical costs left some online despairing, byJoi is "very happy to be a European citizen" right now.