Wednesday, November 21, 2012

$3,000 For a 75-Foot Ambulance Ride?

An 84 year old guy in California went to the doctor, saying he had a dizzy spell. His doctor figured the man needed an MRI, which was available in a hospital just 75 feet away from the doctor's office.

The elderly man didn't feel too bad, so he said he's walk next door to the hospital. Makes sense, right?

Uh-uh! The requirement was he needed to ride an ambulance to the hospital, and the trip would cost him $3,000.

The news is worse than the headline. It's not an isolated case of somebody trying to spectacularly rip off an old guy, but instead a bad example of the state of health care in the Grand Old US of A.
Would you pay $3,000 to be driven next door in this?

I don't have any answers here on how to solve this, but the whole set of circumstances is ridiculous.

They didn't want the guy to walk the 75 feet to the hospital because if he had another dizzy spell and keeled over, it might have been, in some lawyers' minds, the doctor's and the hospital's fault. They would have been sued, and that would be bad.

Also, the doctor said he didn't want to put his patient at risk.

The people responsible for the $3,000 ambulance bill say they know damn well a 75-foot ambulance trip did not set them back Three Grand. The problem is, a lot of people who get carted off to the hospital can't pay the subsequent ambulance bill. The money has to come from somewhere, so essentially, people who can afford ambulance trips subsidize the whole thing.

The guy's insurance paid for part of the ambulance ride, but he was still on the hook for more than half of it.

Once this whole thing caught the attention of the local media, the hospital waived the pricey hospital ride.

But this make me wonder. How much more are we paying extra for medical care than would normally be fair?  And how do we know if the price we pay is the going rate or inflated?  You can't easily comparison shop for say, emergency room treatment for car crash injuries.

I guess the only solution is to never get sick or hurt, and ignore any aches and pains. It's pretty clear to me why people avoid going to the doctor when they're sick, and wait until things get way out of control. They hope the problem goes away, rather than deal with the expense.

What's worse? Illness or bankruptcy? Seems like nowadays, we often have to choose between health and financial solvency. You can't have both.

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