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