wallet biopsy
(wawl.ut BY.awp.see) n. The determination of a person's financial status or health insurance coverage before admitting that person to a hospital or before performing an expensive procedure.

Example Citation:
Mr. Kramer passed what is perhaps the most exacting transplant screening test, what some call the wallet biopsy. After initial denials, Medicare and his private insurer, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, agreed to cover the costs of the transplant, allowing him to travel "out of network" to Pittsburgh for the procedure.
—Jeff Stryker, "H.I.V. Patients Get Fresh Hopes for Donor Organs," The New York Times, December 11, 2001

Earliest Citation:
Relatives are angry because a private St. Louis hospital refused to admit a man with a knife lodged in his back, but a hospital spokeswoman says the decision was not "cold-hearted."

Theotis Little, 36, was taken to Barnes Hospital Oct. 13 after he was stabbed in the back during a quarrel. He spent nearly three hours at Barnes, undergoing X-rays and other tests which determined that the blade of the knife was nicking his spinal cord. Doctors decided that surgery was necessary, but because of a hospital policy under which many indigent patients are not admitted, Little was transferred to City Hospital with the knife still lodged to the hilt in his back, police said. . . Indigent patients frequently are transferred from private hospitals to public facilities such as City Hospital or St. Louis County Hospital, which are required to admit such patients, he said. However, City Hospital doctors said Barnes accounts for the vast majority of patients who "receive negative wallet biopsies."
—"Hospital Defends Decision Not to Treat Man With Knife in Back," The Associated Press, October 27, 1980

Notes:
A biopsy (1895) is a medical procedure that involves the removal of a small sample of tissue from a living person for laboratory testing. Today's cheeky phrase implies that some health-industry institutions take a metaphorical sample of a person's wallet to test the health of than financial organ before approving hospitalization or expensive treatments.

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