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The cost estimates provided by a loan service may be far higher than the negotiated rate ultimately paid by most insurers. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Laura Cameron, then three months pregnant, tripped and fell in a parking lot and landed in the emergency room last May — her blood pressure was low and she was scared and in pain. She was flat on her back and plugged into a saline drip when a hospital employee approached her gurney to discuss how she would pay her hospital bill.

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