Wednesday, February 8, 2012

$31,040.47....I said $31,040.47...

The following is not an endorsement of any political point of view. It is, rather, the story of my recent experience at a local hospital in a nearby county. It is also a meditation on the current system as we have it in this country. I had what amounted to a large boil, in a tender spot. I went on a Monday morning to the ER at this particular hospital, where the abscess was deemed serious enough for me to be admitted overnight to have it treated. I was admitted, and on Tuesday morning underwent surgery to have the abscess excised and drained. I then remained, at the doctor’s orders, in the hospital, on an IV drip (antibiotics and saline) for three nights, until Thursday afternoon, when I was released, with printed instructions for treating the still-open wound. I was also given phone numbers for the wound care branch of the same hospital to make follow-up visits. I do not have medical insurance. I am self-employed, and cannot afford the pricey premiums that insurance companies charge. The last time I did have health insurance was ten years ago, and when I needed surgery on torn cartilage in my knee, the insurance company refused to pay the surgeon, after the fact, citing a “pre-existing condition” as the reason for denying payment to the surgeon. One bitten, twice shy, I guess, describes me. I called the wound care building, where I was told that the hospital’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had determined that to be treated by the wound clinic, I would have to leave a 250 dollar deposit. I told the woman on the phone that I did not have that much money and she said she would leave a message with the CFO to get back to me. That never happened. What did happen was that the receptionist at the wound clinic called the CFO of the hospital (in effect, her boss) and stated in no uncertain terms that I need to be under their care until my wound was completely healed. It was only then that the CFO relented, and I am now getting the proper care. The amount of stress associated with this little episode, which took a couple of days to resolve, was enormous. My only real option would have been to return to the ER and have the wound checked out there, which would have been an unnecessary use of emergency facilities at the least. This is the kind of system this country has given us. Will someone please remind me why there is so much opposition to having a “socialized medicine” type of system? We go to school. We call the police. We call the fire department. We visit the library. We drive on the roads. We do all of these things, and we pay for them through our tax dollars. That is how it is for medical care in almost every country in the world. For every super-power it certainly is, except for one: the United States. We don’t get a bill in the mail for our math class last Thursday, or for the arrest of a criminal, or for having a fire put out. We do get bills for $31,040.47 for having a boil drained, though. Is this the system that so many are fighting to keep? And if so…why?

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