Real Price of Healthcare

Mid-January, I called the Director of Emergency Dept. for the San Ramon Regional Medical Center in regards to outstanding bills sent to collection I purposefully have not paid. The bills were generated in early April, 2012, when my son was admitted to the hospital's emergency room, referred by his primary care physician, for [poorly diagnosed] possible appendicitis. I paid the hospital only 15% to date [of an over $1,000 bill beyond insurance coverage], included in a letter to the Director in June, 2012, and nothing to their vendors—from doctor bills, to radiation, to ultrasound, because both my husband and I feel many of the procedures pushed on our son were unnecessary.

I explained this again on the phone to the Director when I called a few weeks ago in regards to this still open issue, to stop the harassing phone calls at all hours from collection agencies. The hospital had yet to contact me, even once, in response to my original letter in 2012. They cashed the check though.

During our recent call, I again questioned the SRRMC emergency procedures in response to admitting our son. The Director was polite, but insisted the hospital had done nothing wrong, that even giving my son the flu test (least expensive and fastest results) first, instead of last as they did, they would have insisted on the chest x-rays, and the ultra-sound, and the I.V. If they'd found the flu virus, as they did, first, instead of last, and I'd said no to the additional tests, satisfied with the flu results, the Director then said the hospital would have called the police and child services and had me arrested for child endangerment and taken my son from me.

I was so taken aback by this blatant threat that I questioned it's meaning, and the Director repeated it, then again and again throughout our dialog. In fact, every time I questioned anything his staff did, he threatened me with legal action. He informed me the admitting doctor who originally saw my son regularly testifies in court cases and 'handles these types of things all the time,' referring to hospital lawsuits. When I questioned him why chest x-rays for possible appendicitis, he assured me six x-rays were necessary, though two doctors had listened to my son's chest through a stethoscope and admittedly heard no congestion.

Every question I had about the hospital's rational behind the extensive procedures performed on our son, and the Director insisted had my husband or I attempted to take our son from Emergency, they would have called the police and had us arrested. He assured me we made the right decision to keep our son there until the hospital was ready to release him—six hours and, regardless of our protests, two invasive and two non-invasive procedures preformed.

Forty-five minutes into our circular dialog, the Director offered to remove the ultrasound charges from our hospital bill. I questioned why the ultrasound if my son was admitted for possible appendicitis. Why not the x-ray, or both since he'd had no symptoms of appendicitis, his abdomen was not distended, nor had he vomited, was not constipated or experience pain when urinating, as is typical with appendicitis. In fact, he was awake and alert and watching TV in the hospital bed, and his stomach pains had subsided.

The Director had no response to my questions. He retracted his offer, suggested I retrieve my son's hospital records, then challenged me to get a doctor, a pediatrician, in fact, to confirm they did anything wrong, in writing, before he would take anything off our bill. Of course, the hospital records, entered that April day by the doctor's, will not reflect our consistent protests with every recommended test, nor the three hour wait between tests with what the Director claims the hospital considered a possible life-threatening emergency. The hospital records won't reveal both my husband's and my continual pleas for the hospital to administer a simple flu test, which the nurse indicated both doctors had neglected to order until after all the expensive, invasive tests were performed.

San Ramon Region Medical Center is the closest hospital within ten miles. We'd like to be able to count on them as a medical resource, however, the Director's threats when the hospital's authority is challenged is very concerning. His basic contention [at least] in the emergency room is they can do whatever they want, to whomever they want, whenever they want without question. And this is very dangerous, indeed. My husband and I have filed a complaint against the hospital with our insurance carrier, but it's unlikely they'll take any action. They don't care about their over $12,000 bill for the treatment and procedures performed on our son. They'll just pass the loss on to their customers with higher rates, and justify the increase with rising medical costs.

ObamaCare may be the beginning, but we're still so very far from regulating medical fraud, or eliminating the need for insurance entirely by instituting fair and equitable public health care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, after the government finishes investigating Wall Street, they will start on medical fraud ... :(

Why is it that the middle class ends up with the bill for all this, and we don't complain?

In any event, excellent article, just gets me pissed off all over again