Hospitals from the Inside Out

Health Care
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 New Orleans      Doing this report with one finger and that pretty much sucks, but your correspondent continues to do fieldwork from the healthcare front, but I’ll keep it short if I can.

As we’ve discussed in the past, our organizations have been doing research on hospitals for the past number of years.  After bring phenomenally lucky, I have managed to stay out of theme ever since a football injury my senior year in high school until last year and more recently.  Cataracts a year ago, snakebite two months ago on my right foot and now carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand.  In the belly of the beast as they say.  All three procedures minor in the scale of things making me still wildly fortunate, so this is no whine about woe is me.

Instead, it’s about how big, giant hospitals either skirt the rules or ignore them.

Take surprise bills, a subject being debated again in Washington now.  In admissions, the hospital clerk, reading from a script of questions, asked if my insurance was in their network?  I did know having been there last year, but how was I supposed to know?  He had my file in front of him, so why didn’t he tell me one way or another?  This was a shifting of responsibility to the patient, who is never in the best position to know.

It gets worse.  Another question in his script, and he is asking me to sign all of this one query after another, was whether I was going to need financial aid?  Heck, I had no idea what the final price on this adventure might be, but more importantly, the hospital is supposed to inform me about their program, have notices posted, even give me the procedures to apply.  None of this happened.  In this case, this hospital was using my john hancock to slip out of their legal obligation.  No wonder in our study this billion dollar baby paid its ceo more than they spent on charity care as a tax exempt nonprofit.  Of course, my Arkansas hospital was one of the best in our studies, but they had said and done nothing at all.

            What is it going to take to get hospitals to do right?