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Insurance Expected to Pay for Most of Babies' Hospital Care : Frustacis' Medical Bills Could Top $1 Million

May 25, 1985|DAVE PALERMO | Times Staff Writer

Samuel Frustaci may have been too optimistic earlier this week when he estimated that hospital and doctor bills for the treatment of his wife and the surviving septuplets would run about $700,000.

Physicians, hospital administrators, parents who have experienced multiple births and social service workers interviewed Friday said that the historic birth of the Frustaci septuplets would probably cost at least $1 million--and possibly much more.

However, the Frustacis' medical insurance plans are expected to cover most of the hospital costs.

Doug Wood, director of communications for Childrens Hospital of Orange County in Orange, where the five surviving infants are being treated, declined Friday to discuss the costs of caring for the critically ill children.

'Too Many Variables'

"At this point, I can't address that," Wood said. "There are too many variables."

But physicians and administrators at Loma Linda University Hospital, UCLA Medical Center and University of California, Irvine, Medical Center said the average cost of hospital treatment for a premature infant ranged from $1,500 to $2,000 per day.

Using that price range, the cost of caring for the Frustaci quintuplets could run anywhere from $225,000 to $300,000 per month. Physicians treating the infants said they could remain hospitalized for weeks or even months before they are discharged.

Dr. Jack Sills, an associate of Dr. Louis Gluck, head of UC Irvine's neonatal care unit, said the price for treating an acutely ill, premature infant for two to three months averages about $250,000. "Multiply that by five, and it's entirely possible that the cost will exceed $1 million," Sills said.

$30,579 Bill So Far

The hospital bill for Patti Frustaci from March 25, when she was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, to last Wednesday, when she gave birth to septuplets, is $30,579.11, according to Debra Conkey, director of communications at St. Joseph. She said that Frustaci is expected to remain in the hospital--across the street from the facility where the babies are being treated--for another week, at a cost of about $527 a day.

Her bill does not include fees paid to the three obstetricians, two anesthesiologists and seven neonatalogists who assisted in the Caesarean-section delivery. Obstetricians normally charge from $1,500 to $2,000 to perform a delivery by Caesarean section, while assisting surgeons charge 20% to 25% of the chief obstetrician's fee. The fees increase in high-risk pregnancies.

Neonatalogists--physicians who specialize in disorders of newborns--charge about $1,500 per day, and anesthesiologists normally bill patients between $300 and $400, hospital officials said.

The normal hospital charge for a Caesarean-section delivery and an average hospital stay of 4 1/2 days is about $2,500.

Insurance Coverage

Patti Frustaci's bills are expected to be covered by the group medical plan she is entitled to as a teacher at Rubidoux High School in Riverside. Her husband, an industrial parts salesman, is part of a group medical policy with New York Life that insures each of the infants for up to $1 million in medical costs.

"We expect to pay. That's what we're here for," said Treva Davis, New York Life's director of media relations.

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