Proficient Note Buyers
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March 15, 2010
Itemized Thievery
I'm sitting in the surgery prep area while my dad is interviewed by the nurse. Today he is having a radical prostatectomy to remove his prostate and the cancer that is taking hold there. While his mind is squarely set on the surgery itself, I can't help but itemize everything involved with it and the ultimate cost to Medicare and the supplemental insurance my dad carries.

So far, Dad's gotten a new pair of socks, courtesy of the hospital. What was wrong with his socks? I don't know. Wait, I guess they have non-skid bottoms - perfect for the guy who will be bedridden for the next two days!

He's got two armbands - one is his barcode so we can scan him for easier billing. Price check in room 312... The other armband has his list of prescription drugs. And let's not forget his Armani gown, complete with shoulder snaps and dual tiedowns in the back.

Now they're drawing some blood and just finished with his vital signs. The nurse needs a pair of surgical gloves in order to take the blood. Other inventory includes a cotton swab, needle/syringe, and a vial to hold the blood. Oh wait - there is some tape to hold the cotton on his arm. Can't wait to see the bill for that.

I have instructed my mother to request an itemized bill for this surgery and the subsequent hospital stay. After watching a report on excessive charges in health care, I want to be sure the hospital doesn't try something similar. After all, who among us ever sees the itemized bill? We assume our health insurance company takes care of it - what do we have to worry about? (Never mind the sky-high premiums we all pay.)

On the report I saw, one woman was charged $83 for a single Tylenol. She was also charged over $1,000 for a box of surgical gloves, even though only one pair was used, and at a cost to the hospital of $.16. Now THAT'S some serious profit margin!

Over the next hour, the anesthesiologist will stop by, as will the surgeon. Ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching. Granted, they provide a service that is potentially life-saving for my father. I can't put a price on that. I just want to be sure the hospital isn't contributing to the problem our esteemed President and all his buddies with a "D" after their name are bound and determined to "fix", regardless of what the citizens of the U.S. want.

No doubt about it, many health care providers brought this upon themselves. Rampant over-charging resulting in unaffordable premiums for a large segment of the population. Ridiculous markups on medical supplies. The obvious problems are many. Recently I received a cortisone shot in my back - my insurance company was billed over $1,500 for the 30-minute procedure - their contracted rate with my health insurance company was 1/3 of that. Where else can you charge three times what you'll actually be paid for a service?

So as not to lay all the blame on health care providers, let's not forget everyday Americans and their ambulance-chasing attorneys who sue doctors for malpractice on a regular basis. Seeing the cost of malpractice insurance, it's no wonder attempts are made to extract as much revenue as possible from all potential sources.

As I went off on that tangent, my dad got a third armband signifying his blood type and an IV bag was brought in. They put some kind of compression devices on his lower legs to keep the blood flowing. Now he's speaking with the anesthesiologist. Things are moving along nicely.

I plan to stay here with my dad for the next couple days. I will be keeping close watch on everything dispensed to him. I will go over the hospital bill when everything is said and done. If I deem anything unreasonable or egregious, rest assured all my readers will know about it. By then, we will probably have had a new health care bill rammed down our throats, as the House is set to vote on it this week.

Regardless, I pray my father's surgery goes well and his recovery is speedy. If you came here looking for insight with regard to a real estate note you hold, please read some of my other blogs. I hope you understand work isn't the first thing on my mind this morning.

Make it a great week,

Clint


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