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Cayuga Medical claims $312 for dab of gel is correct price after patient questions it

Cayuga Medical Center is in the middle of a local controversy.

It involves a patient in Cortland who visited an urgent care center operated by the local medical conglomerate.

Pamela Poulin reached out to WSYR-TV after receiving a bill in the mail. It was itemized, and for a visit her 85-year-old husband had in November.

“I’ve never paid that much for an urgent care visit before,” Poulin told WSYR.

On the bill was an item listed at $312. It was for a small quantity of numbing gel.

Poulin didn’t think anything of it when the nurse at Cayuga Medical Center’s urgent care in Cortland applied a gel to her husband’s skin before the abscess on his neck was removed.

The gel was “LET gel,” a lidocaine-epinephrine-tetracaine mixture, which numbs the skin before needles or ultimately stitches, WSYR learned through their reporting.

They consulted with another healthcare professional.

Credit: WSYR-TV

Dr. Brian Raphael, of Empire Dermatology in DeWitt says he typically only uses a pre-numbing product on children and wouldn’t charge for the small amount. The amount used, and listed for $312 on the bill – was barely enough to cover a finger tip.

Dr. Raphael did some research at WSYR’s request. Turns out 30 grams of the LET gel sells for $100. It means the actual ‘cost’ per usage would be something like $6 – not $312.

Poulin spoke with the departments responsible for billing and complaints at Cayuga Medical. “She said ‘no, that’s the correct price.’ and I said, ‘human being to human being, can you believe that really is the correct price?’ She said, ‘Well, I can’t comment on that.’”

Worse yet?

They’re stuck with the bill.

John Turner, the vice president for public relations, responded to WSYR on Thursday:

“This is a compounded product that is specially formulated by Feregon Pharmaceuticals. The charge is accurate. This drug is also in very short supply and is currently on back order and unavailable. This does add to the high pricing issues we experience.”

It should be noted that other urgent care facilities have up-front pricing, with clear outlines of pricing structures before patients complete treatment. It’s best to shop around – if possible – for the best quality care, as well as the fairest priced care.