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 likely more complex than that.
The tweet, by Twitter user @OffbeatLook, had racked up more than 250,000 likes Wednesday morning after being posted just a day earlier.
In it she wrote, “My little sister has been struggling with a health problem lately and finally got to see a doctor. They charged her $40 for crying.”
The tweet contained 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 claimed that the hospital “charged her $40 without discussing why she is crying, trying to help, doing an evaluation, a prescription, nothing.”
The tweet received more than 2,000 responses, with many users expressing concerns about the high cost of US health care.
news week was unable to independently verify the claims in the tweet and has contacted the user for comment.
However, hospitals may charge for behavioral assessments, which is likely referred to in the “behavior. assmt” section of the bill mentioned in the tweet. Such assessments are billed under a medical code known as CPT code 96127.
news week has previously investigated a similar account after another viral tweet was posted last September. In it, someone posted a medical bill for a mole removal, including $11 for “short emotion.”
CPT code 96127 is a code that can be used to report emotional or behavioral screenings performed by doctors for various reasons. It could be used in OB/GYN offices to assess depression or anxiety, for example, or could be used in pediatric settings to screen for eating disorders, according to Mentegram, a mental health screening tool.
In a statement provided to news week last year regarding CPT code 96127, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) said the assessment “can be used to help screen for conditions such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and generalized psychosocial symptoms” at the discretion of physicians.
“There are no requirements to screen patients if they show emotion, and code 96127 cannot be reported simply because a patient is showing emotion, such as crying,” it 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 will yield advice for doctors regarding the code. Mentegram has a web page with tips on “how to increase revenue” by billing patients with it, and states that “data and scores should be provided for the screenings being performed.”
This seems to contradict the Twitter user’s claim who said her sister was not being assessed despite being charged for such an assessment.
It’s not the only viral tweet about medical debt recently. On May 15, a Twitter user described their reaction to a dentist who gave them a “harsh speech” for not going in 30 years to get their teeth checked.
“I told her I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t have insurance,” the tweet read. “‘Well, what did you do when you were sick?’ she asked. She looked at me blankly as I said, ‘I waited until I thought I was going to die.'”
Last month, US President Joe Biden proposed measures to tackle the country’s medical debt as Americans battle some of the world’s highest health care costs. The proposals include helping some low-income veterans get their debt forgiven and reducing the role medical debt plays in giving people access to credit.