May 31st, 2018
Continuing the story of what halted my travel to Alaska with the following disclaimer-lite. Be aware that the current theme I am using places the whole post and not just a summary. I plan on going into some detail that is personal. Most of the graphic nature is done, but there is a little bit left. If you feel you do not want to read this for it may offend you or may reveal too much about me, please move on. I intend to write about more travel exploits soon to catch up from the previous as well as new ones. Thanks for understanding.
(Still Wednesday, March 28th, 2018)
Before I left the surgeon, he stressed that I needed to take care of the incision, no matter what. Leaving it untreated could result in me losing a buttock, a ball, or my leg. At this point, I was relieved that I wasn’t in the middle of getting sliced at that time but then stressed again that I might lose a body part. He also mentioned I should not eat anything after midnight. I told my friend that I was like a Gremlin, as I hated bright lights and water, and shouldn’t eat after midnight.
I eventually got home and replaced the gauze that I had on and changed my clothes. I also started trying to figure out how expensive this ordeal was because going to a hospital isn’t cheap from everything I had heard in the past. I wanted to be an informed consumer and honestly, all doctors as the same in this situation as far as knowledgeable information about their skills, so I had to base it on price. I looked up pricing at Florida Hospital, and they said you could request a quote and they will get back to you within two business days. I figure for emergency services they were not very helpful. I then looked up South Seminole, which is about five miles from my house, and they had a listing for how much it cost to drain an abscess, and it was easy to find. There was a range, and I was comfortable with it. It wasn’t $20,000 like I was thinking it might have been. BUT, I was planning on going to Florida Hospital to see my surgeon.
During my research, I learned about transparency in billing. The following two statues 395.301 (Price transparency; itemized patient statement or bill; patient admission status notification) and 408.05 (Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency) discuss this. Basically, they say that prices need to be published on a website and available for viewing. I also learned about the Patient’s Bill of Rights (Florida Statute 381.026 Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities). There were a few points in summary that I’m pulling from Patient-Bill-of-Rights-Florida.pdf, but I have seen it spelled out in full here: Link to Patient Bill of Rights
• A patient has the right to a prompt and reasonable response to questions and requests.
• A patient has the right to receive, upon request, prior to treatment, a reasonable estimate of charges for medical care.
• A patient has the right to receive a copy of a reasonably clear and understandable, itemized bill and, upon request, to have the charges explained.
I mention these three points because somewhere down the line, they will become relevant.
I made arrangements with my friend for what we were to do the next day. She lives 45 minutes from me, and I planned on getting to the hospital around 8 a.m. To compromise, instead of getting there to get to the hospital at 8 a.m., I told her I would pick her up at 7ish, and we would go from there.
I had time to look up cures for the abscess that night and saw Epsom salt, antibiotics, and warm compresses worked. There was mention of tea tree oil as well. Knowing this, and being drained (heh, heh), I went to sleep.
(Thursday, March 29th, 2018)
I woke late and informed my friend. I told her I was going to take a shower and had no idea how long that would be due to the recent incision. She was fine and said to let her know when I was going to be there. I have an app that does that for me, so that wasn’t an issue. One less thing for me to think about. I slowly stepped into the shower and let the water run over the spot. I didn’t dare touch the area because of the amount of pain I was in. I also started getting squeamish again and wanted to avoid all thoughts of what was going on.
I finally got out and gently patted myself dry. I dressed the wound in loose gauze, as the surgeon had, after applying an antibiotic ointment to the pad. I again put on baggy clothes, so access to my now cut area was easily accessible. The numbing agent had worn off since the night before, and I was not told if I could take pain meds. I slowly eased myself into my car, informed my friend I was on the way and took off driving at or below the speed limit. If you recall earlier, I’m not one to drive slowly.
I arrived at my friend’s house shortly before 8 a.m. and informed her with a text. As texting is not the immediate medium that it should be, I decided to go to her door, three stories up. Limping the way there, I arrived, and she was closing the door, making my trip pointless. Hobbling down the stairs, I got back in the car and asked her a favor. I asked if she could contact the hospital’s medical billing office at 8 a.m. because that was when they opened.
She called and followed my directions as we went through a ventriloquist act to speak to Mimi, who answered. I usually don’t mention names, but I kinda feel this one needs to be mentioned. Mimi was very helpful. So helpful, in fact, that said she was unable to provide an estimate. She specifically said she could not provide information for a procedure without a five-digit procedure code. I had my friend put her on speaker and I brusquely, but not yelling, asked how one is supposed to get information such as a diagnosis code for an emergency if one does not see a doctor first. She then repeated she could not find that info without a five-digit procedure code. I asked if her computer had a search function and explained how simple it must be to look something up with a search function. She felt I was being rude and hung up on us.
My friend called back and asked for anyone else but Mimi. We spoke to someone else, and they gave us the exact same line. I asked if they could just provide an estimate, and they could not. We asked to speak to a supervisor, and they said the exact same thing. I stressed that it was just an estimate, and they would not tell me anything. It was as if they were programmed to respond to these questions with this information. I mentioned transparency in billing and still got the same response. I asked what they do if someone comes to the emergency room with a torn off arm and how they plan to bill for that. They could not respond. I also mentioned we did not have access to their database, but they did. They should have been able to help. No use.
I called my doctor’s office and explained to the receptionist what I was going through. She said it made no sense. She said they were part of that system, but they had a different database so giving me their codes would not help because the hospital had their own. She was on my side at how asinine this whole process was. She even mentioned she should go over there and show them how to do their job. I jokingly suggested she give them a punch in the face as well, but quickly pointed out I was just joking because violence does not help anything. Besides, they wouldn’t know the code to bill any damages without seeing a doctor first. She did suggest we go in person and it would be harder to refuse giving info that way.
My friend, in the meantime, was texting a friend of hers that was a billing manager at one of the Florida Hospital branches. Her first response was the EXACT same one that the other people gave. After chatting some more, she got enough information from her to discover that the code they kept asking for was on a form that I got from the doctor. That code, though, was composed of numbers and letters and her friend said they needed five digits. We gave her what we had, which was a procedure and diagnostic code that earlier did not help the people on the phone. She said that one code meant outpatient surgery and the other meant abscess draining with ANESTHESIA. I found that last part interesting because it was not only initially not offered but refused when I asked for it. The last part of the texting conversation was taking place as we were pulling into the hospital.
Again, parking was very far from the building. I limped into the main entrance to get to the billing area, which was on the far side of the building from where we entered. We passed security, and they were having a conversation, ignoring us. I was okay with that, as I am usually detained just because. We then got to the lobby and asked for medical billing at the first kiosk we saw. The person we spoke to pointed us to another booth on the other side of the lobby, and we talked to a person that said they would call someone from that department and to wait. Someone came down within a reasonable amount of time, and I asked them the same questions, again stressing, I just wanted an estimate, to which they responded the EXACT same way. I then asked them the same question about missing an arm, and they had no reply. I also mentioned that there was a legal issue here and they were going against the law with transparency in billing. That immediately prompted her to get her supervisor, who turned out to be the person that called her down. So… the receptionist was her supervisor. I’m not judging, but it seems like anyone can be called a supervisor there for purposes of getting someone to shut up. I was done at this point and said they weren’t having any of my business because honestly if they can’t bother doing this part of their job by telling mean estimate of how much something is going to cost, why should I perpetuate that mindset and give in.
My friend and I left and rather than limping, I walked out of there. I know it didn’t look good on my part, but I was so filled with adrenaline, I no longer felt most of the pain. We got back to the car and headed to the other hospital.
Yesterday, I should have said, “Tomorrow… one of the hospitals,” but then it would have given away this break. So now I will say, “Tomorrow… another hospital.”