The hospital told her surgery would cost $1,337 out of pocket. It billed her $303,709.

St. Anthony North Hospital in Westminster, Colorado, told an insured patient, Linda French, that her surgery would cost her only $1,337 out of pocket. Afterward, it billed her for $303,709—and sued her to get it. After a ten-year legal battle, the Colorado Supreme Court told the hospital's owner, Centura Health, to go pound sand—and criticized it for secret charges that it failed to disclose in the contract it had her sign.

"(French) assuredly could not assent to terms about which she had no knowledge and which were never disclosed to her," Justice Richard Gabriel wrote in the court's opinion.

The justices also noted that chargemaster prices are divorced from actual costs for care. … "…Hospital chargemasters have become increasingly arbitrary and, over time, have lost any direct connection to hospitals' actual costs, reflecting, instead, inflated rates set to produce a targeted amount of profit for the hospitals after factoring in discounts negotiated with private and governmental insurers," Gabriel wrote.

It's terrifying to think that if it had only tucked those charges somewhere in their contract's unreadable wall of legal gibberish she could have lost the case. They were so focused on extractive profit they didn't even want to accept the risk patients might read that contract and find out about the chargemaster, so they kept it secret. And why not? It took French 10 years to beat them in court. She's just the one who refused to roll over.

There is a consensus explanation for why America stopped "trusting its doctor" during the pandemic, mostly built around paranoid right-wing culture-war politics ("Fire Fauci!") and the exploitation of that by politicians and media.

But the collapse in the public's trust for the medical sciences surely has as much to do with the endless, savage financial reaming it gets from medical businesses. That it's politically unthinkable to remove the profit motive from healthcare has hidden costs, and we don't get to choose when or in what form that bill comes due.