Monday, December 28, 2015

And They Wonder Why We Don’t Trust Hospitals

Last February, I’d self-diagnosed cellulitis in my left leg. After several days, I noticed one evening that the swelling and some of the redness had spread from my shin, to clear above the knee. The idea that I might be on the verge of going septic scared me, but the walk-in clinics were closed, so I was forced to go to the emergency room of the local hospital—NEVER a good idea if it’s avoidable. I was almost broke and had no insurance.

I got there at 9pm and waited an hour for a doctor. She refused to treat me until I agreed to get a $300 ultra-sound of my leg to rule out Deep Vein Thrombosis, a highly unlikely situation, considering that I’d been taking 400 units of Vitamin E and 325 to 1950 grains of aspirin a day. I’m sure they were more interested in charging the money and “sue-proofing” their backsides than they were convinced the test was needed.

Some of the folks who provided that service were sick, and the lady who was filling in was working a double and had a waiting list. It wasn’t her fault; she was a nice lady doing the best that she could, but I had to wait over two hours for her services. That put me well after midnight. It was just after 1am when I was fully treated and released.

The bills eventually totaled nearly $2000, what I consider a grossly immoral amount. I was told that by managing to keep me there until after midnight, they could legally charge me for a room. I forget how many hundreds of dollars that was supposed to be.

I’m often slow to pay my bills, due to poverty, but I always get them paid eventually. Still, since I was only working a few hours a week through the spring, it was about three months before I could start paying ANYTHING. By that time, I was being threatened with collection agencies, but I just started sending them some money every month and nothing has happened yet.

However, they have the cost divided into two accounts, probably to deliberately confuse me into paying quicker. It hasn’t always worked. As a result, I’ve been getting a call once in a while by a lady, who says that she’s with them, who asks if she’s speaking to the right person. I tell her that she is. She asks if I’ve been receiving my bills, and I tell her that I have. Then, she says that she called to discuss my account and she needs the last four digits of my Social Security number to confirm that I’m who I said I was. I remind her that she called ME, not the other way around and that I never give information to strangers who call me on the phone. I ask her if she has any way to prove that she’s who she says she is and she has to admit that she doesn’t. She tries to be diplomatic and talk me into divulging the info anyway, but I thank her for calling, tell her that she’s wasting her time with that approach, bid her good-bye and hang up.

Recently, they’ve tried something new. They make a computerized call stating who they are and asking me to HOLD FOR THE NEXT AVAILABLE OPERATOR! Now you KNOW that ain’t gonna happen! I believe they really are who they say they are, but I can’t pay any faster anyway. Besides, considering their grossly immoral prices, I have a real hard time working up any sympathy for them, especially considering how stupid their main collections supervisor must be. © 2015


deborah harvey said...

i figure the supervisor is following orders and usually those who call are a group hired by the hospital and are not actually connected to it.
husband will start chemo in january. doc ofc says we owe 3000$ but we cannot pay. told husband they were not going to let him see doc if he didn't pay. doc saw him anyway.
why don't they accept medicare as payment in full?
greedy greedy greedy.
thank God he is still working but will be 71 in less than a month.
then you see what they charge for, like keeping you til after midnight, which is out and out thievery. but what are you gonna do?
i figure in the next few years people will just die in agony at home , if their homes haven't been stolen by medics for unpaid bills.

i don't see how we could ever pay for the cancer treatment if we had every penny he ever made it wouldn't be enough., in which case we'll be
dying on the street like in some terrible places.
boy you touched a raw nerve. the scariness of the therapy and having cancer is enough to bear without being hounded for money you don't have.
God help us all!

Judy said...

Here's how I handle bill collectors; I don't even answer the phone. That way they can't claim I am being uncooperative. Another point is, at any time they can get you to talk to them the clock for the collections process restarts. So, after a certain length of time of no contact the debt is non-collectible.

Basically, I got the notice, when I get the money I will pay you. Until then, take a number and wait your turn. A safe, warm, dry place to sleep and food in my family's belly are at the top of my list of importance not bill collectors.

Sixbears said...

Been there and it ain't pleasant. Good luck. I've had rude threats.

Right now the most important thing is your health, not the bills.

Gail said...

Hospitals are scary.

Have a blessed day

Pumice said...

I don't know if you ever listen to Dave Ramsey. Sometimes he has some insight. He was counseling someone in a similar situation and pointed out that if you had insurance the insurance company would not be paying $2,000 but only a fraction. My wife handles it but I have seen enough insurance paperwork to know that they never pay what a doctor or hospital asks for. Finding the real cost might be a first step.

He also said that hospitals have people who can negotiate with you but they are found in the social services section rather than the billing department.

On the general topic of collection agencies he said that if they are convinced you don't have any money they will often accept a much smaller amount to settle the account.

It is a good thing that the emergency rooms are required to give care even if you don't have insurance.

Grace and peace.

Gorges Smythe said...

Let's face it, dh, the folks at the top WANT us dead.

That's a good way to look at it, Judy.

Agreed, Sixbears.

They ARE, Gail, and I hope your day is blessed as well.

Very true, Pumice.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

You can negotiate your bill and also ask for an itemized statement because some of the things you can be billed for were not provided. Then, as long as you are making some payment each month there is very little they can do; however, they can deny service in the future if you do not have a life threatening condition.

Gorges Smythe said...

Kathy, our hospital won't negotiate the bill unless you pay it off at the time.