Shock and awe!

By Nancy Black

Photo courtesy of KSAT

My Find Friends app showed a blue dot where my youngest child was at that exact moment. The location? Medical City Fort Worth. What?! They were supposed to be on their way back from a Korean pop band concert at the convention center in Cowtown. Instead, they were at the hospital?

I immediately called said child, who answered with a timid, “Hi, Mom.”

Alive and well and waiting to be released from the emergency room, my teenager quickly explained what happened. While leaving the sold-out concert, a slow-moving car weaving its way through traffic and pedestrians clipped my child’s leg. No scratches or bruises, but it did knock them over onto the sidewalk. Friends insisted on a trip to the ER, and the rest is history. Or is it?

I knew we would get some kind of bill for the hospital’s services, but I was blown away by the envelopes that soon began arriving.

The first was from a company in Las Vegas billing for the doctor. Dr. A charged us $683 for “treating” my child, and $48 for putting one of those pulse oximeters on one finger for approximately five seconds. Total bill = $731 BUT, if we pay cash right now, they will give us a discount of 60 percent, meaning we only have to pay $292.40. 

I ask what in the world the doctor had done to warrant such an amount and my teenager said: “Nothing. Seriously, mom! He came into the room, looked at my leg and didn’t even touch it, and said, ‘We’ll give you some ibuprofen.’” 

The next bill was from the hospital’s financial assistance program. It included a form for me to fill out proving we can’t pay that kind of money for an Advil. The amount on this one? Eighteen-hundred one dollars and 51 cents ($1801.51)! I’m not even sure what it’s for. The financial aid form conveniently arrived before I got the bill, which I still have yet to receive.

I do not have all the answers to the astronomical cost of health care in the United States. But I do know, from first-hand experience, that it is in dire need of a complete overhaul. When an emergency room doctor can just glance at your child and charge you $683, something is very wrong. That a hospital charges $48 for each use of a pulse oximeter when any consumer can buy one at CVS for a one-time charge of $10.99, is an outrage. And when a medical center’s financial assistance office contacts you before you get a bill for services rendered, the gloves start to come off.

It makes me want to create a little shock and awe of my own. Good thing I’m registered to vote and plan on making my voice heard on Nov. 6. I’m ready for some real health care reform.