Cortland urgent care bills patient $312 for ‘dab’ of numbing gel: Your Stories

Your Stories

PREBLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A couple from Cortland County owes $371 to Cayuga Medical Center after a visit to urgent care, $312 of which is listed on the bill for a small amount of numbing gel.

Pamela Poulin emailed the Your Stories team after getting the bill in the mail last week for a procedure her 85-year-old husband had done in November.

“I’ve never paid that much for an urgent care visit before,” Poulin tells NewsChannel 9’s Andrew Donovan

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.

It turns out that “tiny amount” of gel cost $312, which Poulin found when she got the bill two months later.

Copy of Pamela’s bill provided to NewsChannel 9.

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

Dr. Brian Raphael, of Empire Dermatology in DeWitt, didn’t treat Poulin’s husband, but showed us similar lidocaine products as a comparison.

Raphael says he typically only uses a pre-numbing product on children and wouldn’t charge for the small amount, which he showed NewsChannel 9’s Andrew Donovan on his finger tip.

Dr. Brian Raphael, of Empire Dermatology in DeWitt, shows how much gel he’d use on a patient.

At NewsChannel 9’s request, Raphael researched “LET gel” and found it for sale by a pharmaceutical company: 30 grams for $100.

At that price, each dose similar to the amount Poulin’s husband likely got, would be $6. That’s 52x less than what she was billed.

Hoping it was a mistake, Poulin called Cayuga Medical Center, which is based in Ithaca, but operates the urgent care in Cortland.

Poulin recalls speaking with the complaint department: “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.'”

Poulin then emailed the Your Stories team, which reached out to Cayuga Medical Center on her behalf. After she gave permission, NewsChannel 9’s Andrew Donovan shared her husband’s name with Cayuga Medical Center to a spokesperson who was willing to research his bill.

John Turner, the vice president for public relations, responded to NewsChannel 9 Thursday.

After researching through the hospital’s pharmacist, Turner wrote: “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.”

After finding out that neither Medicare nor her private insurance will help, right now, Poulin and her husband are stuck with the bill.


Your Stories matter to NewsChannel 9. To submit a story idea or question, call (315) 446-9900, email YourStories@LocalSYR.com, post to social media with #YourStories, or use the submission form below.

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