Hospital Sticker Shock

A three-night stay at a hospital can cost $40K but what are you really paying for?
3:40 | 11/20/13

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Transcript for Hospital Sticker Shock
. Tonight "world news" joins the fight against wildly expensive and wildly confusing hospital bills. We hear your outrage, a family charged $40,000 for three nights of care, ordinary pills costing a fournl. Tonight we look at the actual bill line by line. Abc's rebecca jarvis with the "world news" investigation, critical condition. These are just some of the bills that I've received -- Reporter: Hospital care at a staggering cost. Roughly 54 $5,000. Reporter: Medical bills blamed in 60 percent of personal bankruptcy. That's atlanta mom tracy who rushed to the hospital for urgent gal bladder surgery. We dug deeper into her bill about. One blood pressure pill, $15. Surgical stapler, $895. Disposable scissor tips, $177. Total cost of three nights in the hospital, nearly $40,000. What was it like that very first time that you saw this? It was shocking. Reporter: And that bill, insurance took care of half but that means tracy is still on the hook for $20,000. And take a look at this, abc news obtained the catalog from one of america's largest hospital suppliers and compared it to tracy's bill line by line. That $15 blood pressure pill, hospitals can buy it for just 3 cents. Tracy was even billed $67 for sterile water which could have been bought from that same catalog for $1.16. It turns out the north side hospital system whose ceo makes $2.1 million a year has been criticized before for its inflated pricing. I want to pay my bill. I just don't want to overpay. Reporter: In this month's edition of the journal of american medical association, a panel of experts takes a critical look at this. We asked the doctor why hospital prices are so secretive. Why don't we know this information? There has been no incentive to make that information clear and every incentive to make it mysteri mysterious. Who is looking out for the american people? It depends on the patients themselves. Reporter: Tracy offered to settle for $10,000. Close to what medicare would have paid for the whole thing. Give me a fair price and you'll get your money. Reporter: North side refused our repeated requests for an interview. They wouldn't explain pricing. You don't think it's your job to clarify for people? Everyone is confused and we deserve an answer. Reporter: The american hospital association told us hospitals like north side lose millions of dollars a year from patients who don't pay their bills and on medicare and medicaid short falls so people like tracy end up having to make up the difference. You'll have to keep fighting this. I'll fight it as long as i have to. Reporter: And tonight tracy tells us her hospital has offered to lower her bill but only by a few hundred dollars meaning she's still on the hook for almost $20,000. What is fair for tracy and so many people like her, national outrage what's the first possible thing to tackle. Transparency, lowering prices come down to them making them public and clear. That's a first step. We want to know your thoughts about this and we're going to stay on this case. Send us your stories about this issue on our facebook page, a call for change under way tonight right here.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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