Hospitals, was: Unanswered Calls to Cell Phones?

In writes:

When you are in an emergency situation (ie in a hospital) and they > don't allow cellphone use or you don't have one, you indeed are forced > to use their phone and pay their charges. > Unlike normal businesses, pay phone providers do not have to tell you > their prices; you only find out a month later when you get the bill. > Imagine going food shopping with the prices unmarked and not knowing > how much you spent for food until the bill comes. Would you tolerate > that? But it's perfectly fine with pay phones.

Since you brought it up, I figured I'd point out there's another big group that plays this exact series of games, where they _don't_ give you a price (or even an estimate) up front, don't allow comparison shopping, and pretty much extort you at a time of need.

I'm referring to the _hospital_ you just visited.

Try finding out ahead of time what they'll charge you for, say, an uncomplicated broken arm. Or, a bit simpler (given the vagaries of medical care), what their average charge was for the 215 broken arms they set last year.

For that matter, ask them about the 57 different varieties of ketc^h^h^h 57 different charge scales they'd choose among based on how you'd be paying for treating that aformentioned broken arm.

Hint: If you're a "self-pay", the list price they'll demand from you is a _lot_ higher than the negotiated one with an insurance company. [a]

Very few other industries get away with this. Even (in most jurisdictions) car repair shops have to give you at least a reasonably realistic estimate and post their hourly rates.

Hospital medical care in this country tends to be (with some, fortunately few, exceptions) top notch -- at least for emergency situations. Hospital economics rank up there with Enron and MCI.

_____________________________________________________ Knowledge may be power, but communications is the key [to foil spammers, my address has been double rot-13 encoded]

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Interesting you should mention it. Fortunatly, I have only had to be in our own Mercy Hospital here in Independence once. (Readers may recall when Eric Smith went on vacation and left his 'puppy' [technically a puppy in age, but in fact a huge monster of a dog here to stay with me while he was gone. It is an Australian Cattle Dog, a big fellow who lives on farms and has the duty of rounding up cows and sheep each day to get them back to the barn. Buffy is _much_ larger now, but still very playful.] At 4:00 AM one day while I was asleep, Buffy on my bed with me of course, the dog jumped off the bed and started a big ruckus. I woke up and had been told by Eric that the dog knows the word 'potty' meaning he wanted go outside. I mumbled 'potty?' the dog jumped up and down and ran over by the door. I went to open the door, I stepped outside and the dog _knocked me over, flat on my face_ in his eagerness to get out and hopefully have me come to play with him as well. It scratched up my face, and considering my age and general disabilities, the next morning Lisa Minter's mother was here and insisted I should go over to the hospital, which I did. I got out of the E.R. about two hours later and when the bill came it was for _two thousand dollars_ (some X-rays and a few other things. But this is the interesting part: the bill started out at a couple thousand, then Medicare Part A paid for quite a bit of it; another portion of the bill was marked 'adjustment' (and a credit amount) and the portion for me to pay out of pocket was all of seventy-five dollars! I asked the ladies in their office how did I get down from two thousand dollars for a couple hours in the E.R. less the part Medicare paid to only seventy-five dollars. What is the 'adjustment' which took off a large part of the bill? She said I was billed the 'going rate' for their services, less what Medicare paid for, less what Medicare _said they were allowed to bill me_ and then I got the difference. I have Part A and Part B, now starting January 1 I get Part D as well.

Such a refreshing change from 1999-2000 when I went into Storemont-Vale Medical Center in Topeka and came out with a bill whose bottom line was _three hundred thousand_ dollars; not bad I guess considering I was comatose for over two months and in their rehabilitation center for a month after that. Seeing that bill for $300,000.00 almost caused me to have another heart attack/stroke on the spot. Fortunatly, Kansas SRS paid for that. 'Never again' is too soon for my return. PAT]

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Danny Burstein
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