Woman claims hospital charged her $40 for crying at appointment in viral tweet

A tweet in which a woman claims her sister was charged $40 for crying during a hospital appointment has gone viral, though the case was probably more complex than that.

The tweet, from Twitter user @OffbeatLook, had gained more than 250,000 likes by Wednesday morning after being posted just a day earlier.

In it, he wrote, “My little sister has been struggling a lot lately with a health issue and was finally able to see a doctor. She was charged $40 to cry.”

The tweet included a photo of what appeared to be her sister’s medical bill, which included a $40 charge for “brief emotional/behavioral assmt.”

The Twitter user reclaimed that the hospital “charged her $40 without explaining why she’s crying, trying to help, doing no evaluation, no prescription, nothing.”

The tweet received more than 2,000 comments, with many users expressing concern about the high costs of health care in the US.

news week was unable to independently verify the claims made in the tweet and has contacted the user for comment.

However, hospitals can charge for behavioral assessments, which is likely what the “behav. assmt” section of the bill mentioned in the tweet is referring to. Such evaluations are billed under a medical code known as CPT Code 96127.

news week has examined a similar bill before after another viral tweet was posted in September last year. In it, someone posted a medical bill for a mole removal that included $11 for a “brief thrill.”

CPT code 96127 is a code that can be used to report emotional or behavioral evaluations performed by physicians for a variety of reasons. It can be used in OB/GYN offices to screen for depression or anxiety, for example, or it can be used in pediatric settings to screen for eating disorders, according to mental health screening tool company Mentegram.

Health condition
Two stock images depict health issues. One woman said her sister was charged $40 for crying on a date.
iStock/Getty Images

In a statement delivered to news week last year regarding CPT Code 96127, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) said the screening “can be used to help screen for conditions such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorders, and pervasive psychosocial symptoms” at the discretion of the doctors.

“There are no requirements to screen patients if they show emotions, and code 96127 cannot be reported simply because a patient shows emotions, such as crying,” he said. “Any emotional/behavioral assessment based on an encounter is a clinical decision made by the physician in consultation with the patient.”

A Google search turns up tips for doctors about the code. Mentegram has a web page that includes tips on “how to increase revenue” when billing patients with it, and states that “data and scores must be provided for tests that are performed.”

This appears to go against the Twitter user’s claim that his sister was not tested even though she was charged for such testing.

It’s not the only viral tweet about medical debt recently. On May 15, a Twitter user described his response to a dentist who gave them a “stern talk” since they hadn’t had their teeth checked in 30 years.

“I told him I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t have insurance,” the tweet read. “‘Well, what did you do when you were sick?’ he asked. He looked at me blankly when I said, ‘I waited until I thought I was going to die.'”

Last month, US President Joe Biden proposed measures to address medical debt in the country as Americans struggle with some of the highest health care costs in the world. Proposals included helping some low-income veterans pay off debt and reducing the role medical debt plays in allowing people to access credit.

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