The $55,001 Man
Not quite Lee Majors, but worth reading about nonetheless…..
Yesterday, I wrote about medical billing, and I mentioned an example of how someone got a bill that didn’t even show who the service provider was. Today, I’m going to tell you about another of her experiences. For the purposes of this, we’ll call her Diane.
Late in 2016, Diane was having some health issues. Very uncharacteristic for her. She ended up at her primary physician’s office – his reckoning was that she had some sort of intestinal blockage and he urged her to get an abdominal scan, using the words “I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow”. Diane went straight to the hospital along the street. Her doctor had called them, and within an hour she had been admitted with gallstones.
Diane had her gallbladder removed the next day. It’s a very straightforward procedure these days, done by what’s known as laparoscopic surgery. Basically, the surgeon makes three or four small incisions, does what he has to. For a gallbladder removal, it takes about an hour. In Diane’s case, he also repaired a small hernia in the area while he was at it, so we’ll give him 90 minutes total.
The next day, the surgeon stopped by to see Diane in her hospital room. Her husband happened to be there, and tells me the surgeon checked the incisions, offered Diane the option of being discharged that day or staying another night (she chose the extra night). He was there 10 minutes. So, we’re now at 100 minutes. Tell you what: I’m feeling generous, so let’s say he spent two hours total on Diane. No, actually, I’m feeling REALLY generous, so let’s say THREE hours.
Diane was discharged the following day with instructions to see the surgeon in 4-6 weeks for a follow-up appointment. She never made that appointment: more on the reasons for that in the coming weeks. However, in late May, she received a letter from a medical billing agency. It wasn’t a bill, but a letter from the surgeon. Apparently, he’d been having trouble getting paid by Diane’s insurer, and wanted her to sign a form so he could appeal this. Diane’s husband responded on her behalf (again, more on the reasons for that coming in due course), stating that they were taking advice on how to respond and would be in touch in the next 10 days.
On researching this, it transpired that the surgeon had billed the insurer for: $55,001. I repeat: $55,001. For what I’ve generously estimated as three hours of work. Now, of course, there will be a certain “overhead” cost associated with this, say, 100%. Even allowing for that, he’s pocketing upwards of nine grand an hour. To put this in context, I refer you to this USA Today article from 2015 on CEOs’ hourly pay.
Disclaimer: the $9000/hour assumes he actually gets paid, of course. Apparently, the insurer paid him just under $2000 back in late April, and they’re regarding his having cashed the cheque as having accepted this and the matter being closed.
Oh, and as for Diane? She hasn’t walked unaided since the surgery, and nobody can explain why. Let that sink in. If you ask her what day of the week it is, chances are she’ll get it wrong. What year it is? She’s a little better at that. That is, when she’s not crying and apologising to her husband for what a burden she’s become, even though she’s done nothing wrong. She wasn’t like that before the surgery.
Now, of course, it is not for me to suggest or imply that the unfortunate events detailed in the preceding paragraph are in any way, shape or form related to the surgery Diane underwent: they are merely statements of fact, with plenty of evidence and witnesses to support them, I place those facts here in this public forum and invite readers to formulate their own opinions.
More will be published re this sorry tale at appropriate times. Stay tuned 😊