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Florida Hospital Charges $9.2 Million to Dead Patient's Estate

Pixland/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- In 2004, at age 24, Tameka Jaqway Campbell was admitted to Tampa General Hospital, and five years later, she died from progressive demyelinating neuropathy, an incurable illness that destroys the body's nerves.  She left behind a $9.2 million bill.

Experts contacted by ABC News said they had never heard of a claim or bill as high as this one.  And even though the hospital charges would likely be refigured to about $2 million, Holly Bennett, Tameka's mother, said she would refuse to pay them.

"I'm not gonna pay your bill," Bennett told ABC's Tampa affiliate in response to the claim against her daughter's estate.  "I'm not gonna even worry about it.  I'm not gonna lose sleep because this is frivolous."

According to the American Hospital Association's Hospital Statistics report in 2009, medical costs in the state of Florida were 24.4 percent of the actual hospital charges.  In that case, the bill would then drop to about $2.25 million -- still hardly a pittance.

"To many, including myself, how hospital bills are calculated is very mysterious and totally nontransparent," said Eleanor Kinney, Hall Render professor of law at Indiana University.

It is unclear whether Campbell held private or government insurance.

"The likely outcome is some sort of settlement divided between the patient's family and the hospital," said Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, a professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan.

Bennett said she did not receive an itemized hospital bill that would have contained the services and charges for the five years of treatment.  She believes the claim is intended to "make her go away" and prevent her from filing a medical malpractice suit against the hospital.

Campbell's mother has created several YouTube videos to speak out against what she believes was the wrongful death of her daughter.  In the videos, she accuses doctors of refusing to feed Campbell and giving her too much morphine.

The story gets more complicated.  Court documents show the state removed Campbell from her mother's care and appointed a professional guardian to replace her.  It is not clear why Campbell was taken from her mother's watch.

A hospital spokesman refused to comment on either the bill or Bennett's medical malpractice claims.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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