Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Help Me Howard: $3,000 Dr. Bill
Have you ever been on vacation or sick and needed a doctor to come to your home? There are doctors in South Florida who still make house calls, but the problem, how much can they charge you? It was way more than one woman expected, which is why she called help me howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Elke is a photo stylist travelling around the world creating the scenes to make beautiful models even more attractive.
Elke Poucht: "Mostly in America, in the states and in the islands, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica everywhere."
It's a fascinating job but on her latest trip to South Florida, she did not have a picture perfect evening.
Elke Poucht: "I was very sick. I went to bed and how it is all the time when you wake up you feel very sick."
At 1 a.m. Elke called the front desk at her South Beach hotel to tell them she needed a doctor.
Elke Poucht: "So they said we called the doctor, we have a list and we called one of them. So the doctor came an hour later."
The doctor gave her two injections and a handfull of pills from different boxes. Then he handed her this bill for his house call.
Elke Poucht: "So he said its $3,000, and I couldnt react, I was just speechless, and I said '$3,000? I mean this is a lot,' and then he said 'but I did a lot.'"
Elke says the doctor told her he wanted cash. She said he didnt have it and did not think he deserved $3,000 for a visit to a hotel room. He said she shouldnt worry about it.
Elke Poucht: "He said you're a German and the agency is paying, and he said he had never had problems with German so it was like 'oh Germans, tourists' and it gives me a bad feeling also."
The doctor then demanded Elkes credit card, ran it and left. Physically her stomach felt better, but emotionally she was upset.
Elke Poucht: "It makes me really angry how he treated people here in his position of being a doctor."
The next day, a co-worker contacted his primary care physician who called the doctor who billed Elke $3,000 and asked to see the medical records to find out what he did to make the bill soar to $3,000. The high billing doctor refused to turn over her records.
Elke Poucht: "So now we never got an answer from this guy. You cant talk to him. I gave him all my information because I could still have somthing and no one knows what he gave me what kind of injections."
The doctor did not tell Elke what kind of medicine he injected her with and refused to return any of the $3,000.
So Howard can a doctor come to your hotel room, charge you whatever they want and refuse to tell you what kind of medicine you got.
Howard Finkelstein: "The answer is no and no. If you do not have an agreed price up front, the law limits a doctor to what the law calls a reasonable fee. We spoke to medical experts and all said this is outrageous that the fee should have been no more than $700."
When I spoke to the owner of the company that sent the doctor, they told me they normally charge around $700 for a daytime call, but when it's a 2 a.m. call on the weekend, the doctor sets his own rate.
The doctor told me that they do not rip people off thats its a VIP service, that part of the $3,000 cost is the medicine and the rest is the two hours he spent with Elde.
The company owner also told me that they are confident that Elkes German insurance company will re-imburse her and if not they will be willing to help her get her money back. Howard says thats not the point.
Howard Finkelstein: "It doesnt matter if a German insurance company pays the fee its wrong and if you think a doctor is charging outrageous amounts, file a complaint with the department of health. Although I have to tell you they rarely do anything in situations like this."
Elke may file a complaint and defintely wants other German tourists to know, be careful if you get a house call in the united states.
Elke Poucht: "I would like for this doctor to realize that you dont do this to tourist because his mind is 'oh if I find a German patient, I can make an invoice, whatever he want to do, there are no rules.'"
Elke Poucht: "I think that in my case he did something very mean an I want to save another foreigners that happen this to them so."
Patrick Fraser: "If you are calling a doctor to come to your hotel room, get the price ahead of time. The doctor who billed Elke says she never asked him how much he was going to charge of course not, she was doubled over in pain.
A situation sickened you? Need someone to make a house call? Contact us, we dont have an MD, but we will tell you our price up front its free.
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