The Law: After Paying, Who Gets?

Once they are ready to go home after a stay in the hospital, most people are too delighted—or intimidated—to question the bill. Even when it seems too big, they shut up and pay up. Not Mrs. Helen Clark, a lawyer who likes to get what she pays for. When Manhattan's Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals billed her $701.23 after eleven days of treatment for a blood clot in her leg, the figure struck her as high, and she asked for an itemized bill certified by a hospital official. Three years of legal hassles began.

The second bill was a tempting $20 lower,...

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