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Kossacks, it is difficult for me to ask this now, especially given the situation. However, I know this community knows a lot about the national disgrace that is our healthcare system, and moreover, how to navigate it - and that is the primary reason I ask for your aid now.

I got hit hard by the Flu a couple of days ago. Not a little hit - I mean "slugged like a steam train full of anvils" hit. There was virtually no onset time, and when it hit me the hardest, I could barely move or act. All of the classic symptoms of the Flu - Headache, muscle aches, weakness, fever, agitated leg muscles, eye muscles being sore when looking about, the works. And the coughing and mucus. Dear sweet god, the mucus.

I'm a pretty tough guy. But on day 3, I felt a familiar sensation in my chest, one I recalled only too clearly from my childhood - mucus in my bronchial tubes. The last time I had this, back when I was little, this went into pneumonia. So when I woke up with this familiar sensation, trepedation hit me:

"Damn it all, I'm going to have to go to the emergency room."

More below the fold.

First, some History: I am one poor son of a bitch. I am also not in the slightest bit shamed by this fact. I was trained as an Engineer back in the late 90s - a career that saw me well off until 2001, when every tech firm and their grandfather began outsourcing. When the biggest firms all did it, even the smallest ones began to do so to compete.

Now, you cannot find such jobs here in the United States. They do not exist. From here, it has been one lengthy little farce of me going job to job as businesses I went to downsized/went under/etc. It's only recently - in the last year - that I've pulled down a job that I've been able to stick to and make a career of, as an Aide for a local Transit Company. The pay isn't fantastic, and neither are the hours - but it's infinitely better than every "we refuse to let you work more than 36 hours" job I've had elsewhere and the pay is more than double what I was earning at the local Supermarket (and a fraction as bad for my health, too).

In short, it's a job I enjoy, gives me enough free time to help and take care of my mother (who is blind; I act as her primary caretaker and live with her), and I genuinely like the people I work with. I can tell people - with a straight face - I LIKE MY BOSS. Rare? Dear lordy, yes.

This will be relevant in a minute, so please, bear with me.

So I will acknowledge, I let fear get the better of me, having had this spread into Pneumonia once before and not being the better for it. However, this was something I felt that, from past experience, would be over relatively quick. I headed off to Huntington Hospital (considered by most locals to be one of the worst hospitals around, to be sure, but the only Hospital within 20 miles of where I live).

It took forever, as expected, despite there being all of like 3 people in the dozen-and-a-half fast track rooms. An X-Ray and 2 Breathing Treatments later, I was told it wasn't Pneumonia but Bronchitis (though it could have been had I gone a few days and not gotten any better). I was given a prescription antibiotic and sent back out about 3 hours later.

Which brings me to the primary subject at hand. I've no health insurance, and make, on average, under $1000 a month. I've been treated under Huntington Hospital's Charity Care system 2 times previous in my life. However, this time, something additional was thrown my way that has me a bit confused.

Unlike previous visits, I was this time given a thick packet of paperwork demanding an [i]inordinate[/i] amount of personal information - not for the hospital, mind - for the billing and collections department. They are asking for the following information:

  1. A full month's pay stubs from my job
  1. 6 months worth of statements from my bank
  1. A copy of this year's tax return
  1. Information on any investment-related things I might have (stocks, bonds, etc)
  1. A notarized letter from me explaining my financial situation

Which brings me to my next point and where I need advice. Most, if not all of the money I currently make winds up going back into my household - either for food, or gas, or tax payments, or what have you. I have heard multiple different opinions on why, exactly, the hospital needs this information. The woman who registered me said it was for the hospital covering the costs, but numerous friends of mine have suggested that the entire thing is an attempt to bilk for whatever limited cash they can get from me.

I'm confused, tired, and I need answers. What do I do about this? And I apologize in advance if this seems like the worried musings of some poverty-ridden smegtard.

Crimeny, the fact that people are - like me - so constantly having to agonize over going to the goddamned hospital and the repercussions thereof is a damning indictment of our society as a whole. If nothing else, it's cemented an understanding in me - one I truly wish no one else ever has to learn in the first place - of why a public option (or more specifically, Single Payer) is so damnably necessary.

Thank you in advance.

ADDENDUM: Edited slightly to get point across better.

Originally posted to Jaimas on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 03:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The paperwork they request (8+ / 0-)

    sounds more like what you'd need were you applying for a loan!

    I think I agree with the friend who says they are trying to establish your assets for later collection.  

    Odd, very odd...and rather disturbing!  What next, credit checks before treatment?

    Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

    by EdgedInBlue on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 03:13:19 AM PST

    •  I was told once, by a friend, that they do that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sandblaster, neroden, EdgedInBlue

      ....At one of the better hospitals in NYC.

      I pray fervently to god that that was, at the least, a reckless exaggeration.

      Thank you for your insight, as well.

    •  This is prescisely what it is (5+ / 0-)

      sounds like the hospital is going to loan you the money to pay the bill (through some company that probably charges outrageous interest), and you will soon be getting a packet of paperwork from the loan company with a monthly payment to make to them.
      It might help for you to call the billing department and work out a payment plan on your own.

      Save the Earth! It's the only one that has chocolate.

      by skohayes on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 03:42:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ditto that. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SingularExistence, neroden, skohayes

        My brother got a ambulance ride to the ER while in town.  (I'll skip the details.)  He got hit with that request too.

        Are hospitals mercenary?  Not really.  They have their bills to pay just like any other business.  They need the money.  Even a charity hospital (very few of those anymore) doesn't get unlimited funds from state, local or federal government.

        Even if you get insurance preapproval for a procedure, the facility will often ask for your copay (or a portion of it) up front.

        Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

        by Fabian on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 04:54:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  My local hospital is notorious for this (0+ / 0-)

      They are supposed to be the biggest real estate owner in the county from all the homes they have taken over the years.  If you own your home do not put it up.

      That passed by; this can, too. - Deor

      by stevie avebury on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 07:00:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  paperwork (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What happens if you don't provide it? I guess they start billing you and send you to collections?

  •  Just a Question (10+ / 0-)

    The information this hospital requests is none of anyone's business. What would happen if you completed the form with the notations "Confidential: This information cannot be supplied." Then, what would happen if you took the form to either your local legal aid center and/or to your Congressman and/or Senator. I had a problem many years ago and went to a Senate aide. The problem was solved quickly and easily! The way I figure it, that's what our elected officials are for!

    •  I like that idea.... (6+ / 0-)

      I just may do that.

      This is the state that's home of Schumer and Weiner, after all...

      Thanks for the tip.

      •  You're most welcome. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fabian, neroden, Jaimas

        If you traipse into the office of your Senator and/or representative, you'll most likely get to talk to an aide. You'll also find that they are very familiar with the problem. I'll bet you're not the first one to bring the problem to their attention. Good luck to you!

    •  Isn't it their business (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Demena

      if they're going to end up footing the bill?

      They're basically asking for proof that the diarist cannot afford to pay the hospital tab, and why.

      "I can't come to bed yet! Someone is WRONG on the Internet!" - XKCD

      by SingularExistence on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 04:23:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A polite response would be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If you are applying for Charity Care, after telling them that the information is too personal -- and frankly, in the case of bank statements and tax returns with SSNs on them, unsafe to allow into third-party hands -- you might write something like "My yearly income is within this range, I have less than this much in savings, and I pay for the full living expenses of so-and-so many people, and I will be happy to testify to that in court or under oath.  I am not willing to pay the costs of a notary or a copy machine."

      But really try your Congressman first....

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 05:23:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is Routine in CA hospitals (7+ / 0-)

    If your income is low enough -- the hospital can receive payment from the government on your behalf. But they must have the proof, hence the paperwork.

    If you earn too much money or own too many assets, then you will owe all or part of the money.

    From there, given your financial situation, you may make small affordable payments every month for however long it takes to pay it off.

    Mention your are your mother's sole caregiver. There are certain hardships that factor into this. I think you'll be fine.

    Urgent Care centers are a lot cheaper. Hope you feel better.

  •  It sounds to me like they (7+ / 0-)

    have tightened up the requirements for eligibility for their Charity Care system.  

    What they seem to be asking for is proof of poverty - - in a form that allows them to proceed to collections on the bill if it turns out you lied about your finances.  

    Check the fine print.  Is this in the context of establishing your eligibility for Charity Care?

    "Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something." President Obama in Prague on April 5

    by jlynne on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 03:48:28 AM PST

  •  My suggestion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    call your local health department immediately.  There should be antivirals available for little or no cost.  

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 03:59:34 AM PST

    •  Hah! (0+ / 0-)

      Our doctor refused to give us antivirals. Apparently they are in as short supply as the H1N1 vaccine. The government has instructed the medical community to save the antivirals for small children and pregnant women. I threatened, I cajoled, I cited scientific evidence. To no avail. We just had to suffer.

  •  Um, I know this advice comes a bit late (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but whenever I feel that familiar buildup of liquid in my chest, I don't head to the emergency room until after I've performed the ritualistic steaming taught to me by my mother who was raised on an Idaho farm.

    Boil some water in a saucepan. Take the steaming pan and set it on your table. Sit next to the pan with a large bath towel. Place the towel over your head and the pan. Then lean over the pan and breathe.

    For extreme cases, you can add a few drops of menthol oil to the pan. Have kleenex sitting nearby.

    My whole family got swine flu this past month. I forced them to do "The Steaming." There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But not a single one of us ended up in the emergency room. That's saying something, since two of my kids actually have asthma.

  •  screw em on the bill (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the alternative is letting these leeches latch on to your already limited funds and drive you furter into poverty; which would probably be bad for your health anyway.
    Maybe I've been reading to much George Carlin, but i say fuck em.

    Gore works in mysterious ways.

    by Dude1701 on Mon Nov 16, 2009 at 06:50:27 AM PST

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