A $21,000 hospital bill for five days of psychiatric care? Now that’s crazy


Arline Feilen lost her husband to suicide in 2013. Three years later, she lost her dad to cancer. And this February, she lost her 89-year-old mom to a cascade of health problems.

“We were like glue, and that first Mother’s Day without her was killer. It just dragged me down,” said Feilen, who is 56 and lives in suburban Chicago. “It was just loss after loss after loss, and I just crumbled.”

A few days after that painful holiday, she drank eight or nine light beers in several hours, trying to drown her pain. She sent alarming texts to her sister and friends, raising concern she might harm herself. One friend called 911, summoning an ambulance that took her to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

Feilen arrived in the emergency room on a mid-May night and was moved to a shared room in the inpatient psychiatric unit the next day. In total, she spent five nights in the hospital.

Feilen underwent tests: bloodwork, an abdominal ultrasound and an electrocardiogram. She got group counseling, which her sister, Kathy McCoy, said really helped. She also started taking an antidepressant, Remeron.

When she got home, she stopped drinking beer. She kept taking the medication and got counseling. She came to view her mental health crisis as “another mountain I’ve climbed” — and reminded herself of her accomplishment by keeping her hospital bracelet in her bedroom near a candle. Her grief began to recede.

Then the bill came.

Total Bill: $29,894.50, including $16,480 for room and board in a semiprivate psychiatric room and $3,999 for the ER. After the hospital reduced the bill because her insurance didn’t cover mental health, she owes $21,634.55.

The biggest chunk of Feilen’s bill was $16,480 for four nights in a psychiatric unit room shared with another patient. Adding the night in the ER brings it up to $20,479 — the majority of the entire bill.

McCoy joked that it would have been a lot cheaper for her sister to stay at a Ritz hotel.

That’s true. According to its website, five nights in the fanciest suite at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Chicago costs $12,895.