Friday, August 19, 2005
That's Just Wrong: Hospital Bills
The cost of health care is enough to make anyone sick. But when one Florida Keys woman recently got a bill from the hospital, she said that's just wrong.
WSVN--Marjorie Smith is an artist.
Marjorie Smith: "This is Hope. One of my Mermaids."
Living in the keys, she's grown a particular fondness for the ocean.
Marjorie Smith:" I do custom artwork for people. Mostly sport fisherman work for tournaments. And a lot of custom work peoples homes."
These days however she's not making art, but framing it.
Marjorie:" I injured my hand over the July 4th weekend."
Marjorie originally put off going to the doctor because she doesn't have health insurance. Then finally after three days, she started making calls.
Marjorie: "I was just going down the Key Largo orthopedic surgeons in the phone book and on my 3rd call, I talked to a nice woman who said the doctor is not available today but you can come in and see the physician's assistant."
What the physician's assistant saw wasn't very good. X-rays showed Marjorie broke her hand. The fracture so bad, she had to go to the emergency room at homestead hospital.
Marjorie: "They were nice people, they looked at an x-ray that I provided and said we can refer you to someone else because we can't do what you need to have done."
The hospital physician recommended Marjorie see a plastic surgeon.
She knew the doctor would charge for his time, but she never imagined his advice would be so expensive... Until she received a bill a week later.
Marjorie: "I about fell on the floor when I got the physicians bill. It was 309 dollars. And I was thinking, well OK. They did stuff, they looked at my x-rays, I can live with that."
And then another bill. This one for more than nine hundred dollars.
Marjorie:" 900 for the emergency room. 302 for the physician. And, all they did was talk to me and say I'm sorry we can't help you."
A lot of money for a little attention. Now Marjorie is saying that's just wrong.
Now, everyone knows that the emergency room can be expensive. But the issue here is why they don't tell you how expensive. Turns out… There's a federal law that says you can't.
"We cannot give estimates as it relates to charges. We don't want to. We want the patients and the clinicians first priority to be the care.
Federal law says hospitals can't turn anyone away even people who can't pay. But officials with Baptist Health South Florida, which runs Homestead Hospital, say in Marjorie's case… They can help.
"Under our financial assistant program we offer discounts up to and including a hundred percent. We also offer payment arrangements that are very flexible.
Marjorie is now being enrolled in that program. In the meantime, new x-rays show her hand is healing. And hopefully she'll be back to drawing again in no time.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Baptist Health South Florida: www.baptisthealth.netCosts of Emergency Care
This site has a lot of information about the problem of the uninsured and lists some resources. Baptist Health participates in this organization's community outreach efforts, including hosting free health screenings during Cover the Uninsured Week.