Saturday, September 15, 2007

Highway Robbery

Do you remember the emergency room episode as my daughter drove across country to San Francisco? We finally learned what it costs these days to go to an emergency room.

She had called to say she had been up all night with excruciating lower back pain and shaking chills. My brilliant friend and doctor Deborah had immediately diagnosed this as a urinary tract infection. She agreed with my suggestion to have her go to an emergency room for treatment.

This was in rural Wisconsin. She was seen immediately. She peed in a cup. They quickly tested it, handed her a prescription for Cipro, and agreed to send her parents the bill since she was uninsured.

I speculated with Deborah about how much this brief sojourn in the ER would set us back. She said “a couple hundred dollars”. I had thought $300.

Over a month went by and no bill showed up. I was feeling kindly toward the good folks in rural Wisconsin, some of whom could easily be my Norwegian relatives. A freebie perhaps for a young tourist just passing through?

Not so. The bill came this week. $800 they wanted for a pee test and a prescription. I do understand that we must pay for the unfortunate people who can’t pay their own way, but this is highway robbery. The itemized $250 lab test that consists of sticking a strip into the cup of urine and looking at its color.

My husband tried to call, but HIPA laws would not let them talk to him since he wasn’t the patient. So my daughter must call if there is to be any adjustment.

I rather doubt we will get off with paying less than the billed $800. But this just makes a much clearer case for national health care which is affordable to all.

My daughter now has a job in San Francisco with health insurance included, so she is off the rolls of the uninsured. However, as my son heads off for Budapest, we are probably going to spring for health insurance, for which some companies do not provide overseas coverage. I sincerely hope he doesn’t get sick and I doubt an ER visit in Budapest would cost $800, but I don’t want to find out.

8 Comments:

Blogger Anonymous said...

That is just insane. The sad thing is that there are clinics that would have seen her for under $100 and there are also these OTC tests now that you can just pee into and put the strip in yourself!!! I am so sorry.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Red tape and nonsence. I won't go into my illegal immigrant spiel here, but . . . grrrrr.

She's been treated and recovered and . . . that's good, but highway robbery.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

That is ridiculous. You've just reminded me to appreciate my insurance. I didn't pay anything when I hit the insurance room after getting shingles and I still have yet to pay anything (other than the copay) on the breast cancer scare.

Anyway, I'm glad your daughter didn't suffer from anything more serious. I cannot imagine how the perpetually uninsured cope. (My sister finds herself in the category due to changing jobs and a number of preexisting conditions.)

8:17 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I mean, when I hit the emergency room with shingles. Freudian slip?

8:18 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- A clinic would have been great, but in rural Wisconsin you don't have a lot of choices. Even if she had gotten an OTC test kit, you still need an MD to write an Rx.

RuthD -- I agree that the important thing is that she got the medicine she needed quickly and recovered fully from what can be a messy infection if left untreated too long. The money really doesn't matter in the long run.

Kristin -- It makes you value your health insurance, yes?

9:28 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Kristin's slip was very telling - indeed, some emergency rooms and doctors' waiting rooms are "insurance" rooms! $800 is a stiff penalty to pay for getting sick and needing help far from home. Your daughter is lucky she has you and that you can afford to pay it. I'm still making payments for treatment given years ago when I was uninsured...

8:05 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- The ridiculous amount brings to mind my state (Virginia)'s latest scheme to make money to repair the roads. The fines for speeding have been ridiculously increased, to the point that being caught going 20 miles over the speed limit results in a fine of upwards of $1000. My response to this is: It's ridiculous, but I can avoid it simply by staying within the speed limit. Unfortunately we cannot always avoid getting sick.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I find that totally incomprehensible! The test kit probably costs $40. I feel extremely lucky to live in Ontario where we have a social health plan that covers quite a bit.
What would happen if a person couldn't or just didn't pay the bill? Lots of people owe my husband money and we send out a few notices and there are some who just don't pay. Of course, he won't see them again for treatment unless they pay up front.

10:31 AM  

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