Family’s $25K MRI prompts journalist to start database of ER bills

Annie Nilsson is used to medical bills. Her 3-year-old daughter, Elodie Fowler, has had just about every test one can get, all in the hopes of better treating the little girl’s rare genetic condition.

But a recent MRI from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, led to a bill for $23,795.47—shocking a family plenty familiar with the costs associated with healthcare.

“Elodie has had CT scans, colonoscopies, lots of ultrasounds, so we had assumed the price would be roughly the same,” Nilsson told “We broadly researched what an MRI should cost, and we thought it would be a couple of thousand dollars. Nowhere in our long back-and-forth with the hospital was there any hint from the people scheduling it that we could possibly see a price like this.”

With insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, Nilsson went out of network for the MRI, meaning the insurance would pay half of a “fair price” MRI.

Stories like this one, written for by Sarah KIiff, aren’t unique. To that end, the journalist is hoping to remove the secrecy behind emergency room pricing by creating a secure database of information.

More information on the program is available here.