The Cost of a Toenail

I never knew that a toenail could cost us so much money.

Actually, two toenails.

My son has been cutting his own nails for years, and doing a fine job of it until recently. A few months ago he cut too far down on his big toes and left a tiny sliver of a nail sticking out.

On both big toes!

For anyone who has had ingrown toenails, you know what happened next. The slivers grew out and away, slowly cutting their way into the side of the toes until infection set in.

The limping gave him away, so my son finally admitted that something might be wrong with his toes. Peeling off his shoes and socks, we were shocked to see a nasty, oozing infection that was badly in need of attention.

Of course it was a Sunday. These things always happen on a Sunday.

And this is what happened next:

Visit to the Urgent Care, where a doctor quickly glanced at his toes, agreeing that it was a nasty infection. He handed us a prescription and a bill for $179.

Visit to the pharmacy for antibiotics and Epsom salts (for soaking his toes). Another $50.

The next day we were able to see a pediatrician, who happily cut out the offending toenail slivers in about 5 minutes. Oh, and happily charged us $400.

Home to soak in Epsom salts again. No charge.

One week later, the infection in my son’s toes wasn’t much better, and the pediatrician’s office couldn’t see us, so they referred us to a podiatrist.

Visit to the podiatrist, who spent 2 minutes explaining that the toenail slivers were still there, and another 15 minutes removing half of the entire nail on each big toe. Charge, $550.

Home to soak in Epsom salts again. No charge. That was one big bag of salts.

My story ends with the good news that my son’s toes have now healed.

But at a cost of $1,179.

For a couple of big toes.

All this just to say: There is something seriously wrong with the cost of health care in this country!

12 thoughts on “The Cost of a Toenail

  1. I am hoping that while that was the charge, you had medical coverage with a co-pay that brought that number down to a more manageable amount?

      • We have insurance. But it has a $2000 deductible. Since we’re a healthy family, we have never reached our deductible in any given year since 2001. I don’t mind paying for legitimate services from doctors, but the time they spent on my son’s toenails does not need to add up to over $1000.

  2. Not to rub it in, but that would have cost you £0 in the uk.

    Although obviously we do pay for it via taxes.which for most people are around 25-30% of income, which I’m not sure how compares with us taxes.

    • Our tax rate is not that much lower than yours, Dan. Around 20%.

      I’m a firm believer that preventative health care should be available for free to everyone.

      The real problem I have, however, is the cost of about 30 minutes worth of doctor’s visits. Doctors should charge an hourly rate, and be upfront about it. You try asking a doctor here how much it will cost to have a certain something done, and they won’t tell you. The usual answer is, “Well, we’ll bill your insurance.” Imagine walking into a restaurant and there are no prices on the menu.

  3. It’s been a long time since I have visited your blog. Wow .. I know how hard it is to heal nail infections. Poor kid .. must be very tender footed .. good thing it’s summer and sandals are an option.

  4. Yeah, it’s funny. Most of the doctors I have had say, “Well, call your insurance company and they can tell you what this service will cost.” I don’t believe that the doctors don’t know. I don’t know if Obamacare is the answer, but I do agree that SOMETHING needs to be done to improve our healthcare and healthcare costs in this country.

  5. Hello: Just stopping by from BlogHer. I just had a similar visit to a podiatrist in spring to alleviate my aching toe from an ingrown toenail which I had tried desperately to fix myself.:( I also came away from all of my doctor visits and meds with a whopping medical bill. I just wanted to say, though, to keep asking your son about his toenail. My podiatrist deadened the toenail down to the root and told me I would never have an ingrown toenail there again. However, I can still feel a bit of aching now and then at the base of my toenail where she deadened the root. Above that I feel nothing, but it’s right at the base, where I’m still squeamish if someone even comes near that toe and threatens to step on it.:( I wish you and him luck!:)

  6. Longboard accident, very minor. 1 hour’s time totaled $130. We actually paid $20 for an Ace Bandage. What are they, four bucks at Walmart! Glad he’s healed.

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