Posts from August 2009.

An example of the current US Healthcare problem

Dog bite!

While I was vacationing in New Jersey I was bitten by a dog.  Actually, first the dog went to bite me but wasn’t fast enough.  Then, I choked him with his collar and made him stand on his hind legs to breath.  When he calmed down and stopped acting like a wild animal I let him down at which time he immediately resumed acting like a wild animal and finally succeeded in bitting me.

I had a very large puncture in my arm which bled profusely.  I decided I needed to go to the Emergency Room.

My Hospital Experience

I had a tetanus shot a few months before during my annual physical.  I also knew the dog was healthy.  So, my the biggest problem I faced was an infection from the bite.  So, before going to the Emergency Room I cleaned my wound and then drove myself to the Hospital.

My father and I drove to the Robert Wood Johnson Memorial Hospital at Hamilton.  I checked in and waited patiently in the reception area.  I was given two pieces of sterile gauze for the bleeding and while I sat waiting I used the sanitary hand foam on the wall to further clean and disinfect my wound.  Within fifteen (15) minutes we were lead back into the treatment area of the Emergency Room.  There we waited approximately forty five (45) minutes until someone trained to practice medicine saw me.  While waiting, I had to go to the bathroom.  After going to the bathroom I washed my hands and the puncture wound on my arm with hot soapy water and foam hand sanitizer.  When I got back to the treatment area where I had been waiting, I disposed of all my bloody towels and gauze in the red bio-hazard garbage can and took another piece of gauze to keep pressed against my wound.  My father informed me I had missed John, the Medical Technician.  I said, “They’ll be back.  They’ll need this room eventually.”

In a few minutes John came back, looked at my wound and was surprised at how clean it was.  He took my vital signs, blood pressure, oxygen, pulse and temperature.  Then we waited some more for the Doctor to come in.  It’s important to note that the Doctor put gloves on his hands, but he never touched me.  He asked me about tetanus and rabies, and I explained that I was only worried about infection.  I came because the wound was large enough I thought it needed to be stitched closed.  He advised me that it was an infection risk if it were closed and I’d just have to live with a scar there. I asked about shaving my arm to keep the hair out of the wound and I was told that was not necessary.

World class health care?

The Medical Technician, John, squirted some triple antibiotic on the wound and slapped a large band-aid on my hairy arm. I picked up a prescription for some antibiotics and was asked how I was going to pay for my visit.  My insurance has a $50 co-pay.  So I gladly put that on a credit card and went to the nearest drug store to fill my prescription.

Not counting the antibiotic that were prescribed (2 pills per day for 7 days) the actual emergency room treatment I received lasted all of two hours.  In two hours the large band-aid I had been given by John had filled up with blood and was leaking.  I had to remove the band-aid, along with a large portion of arm hair that stuck to it, to redress the wound.  At this time I shaved my own arm.  Three band-aids a day is enough reason to look slightly silly by having a bare patch around an extra large band-aid.  Plus, hair trapped in a wound is just plain unsanitary.

The bill…

Today I checked my health care account and I was shocked.  Just to remind you, my medical treatment consisted of being ignored for more than an hour and a half, having my vital signs taken, speaking to a Doctor for all of five minutes about the injury, three pieces of sterile gauze, a smidgen of neosporin, a large band-aid and a prescription for amoxicillin.  The Emergency Room charged my Health Care company $1004.46!  My Health Insurance agreed to pay them $465.00 to which the hospital agreed.  $373.50 of that cost is covered by my plan.  So I’m personally responsible for $91.50.  $91.50 for three pieces of gauze, neosporin, a large band-aid, and an antibiotic prescription!  In my opinion the services rendered were barely worth my $50 deductible!

The solution — Fast Food Medicine

I would have rather walked up to a counter like in any fast food chain to be greeted with a cheerful hello and a list of services and prices up front.  The Doctor’s hourly rate is $300 per hour, PA’s and RN’s are $150 per hour and Medical Technicians are $75 per hour, but that’s only the actual time they spend in the treatment room with you. A Doctor’s time comes to $5 per minute.  Prescriptions have an additional $20 fee — seems fair.  There’s a $20 fee for incidentals used, gloves, gauze, band-aids, etc.  Sure, sure, sure.  My total would have been less than $90. If medical services were priced like this I wouldn’t have a co-pay on my insurance.

I’d love to see the itemized breakdown by the hospital to justify a bill of $1004.46, which I think is just completely absurd.