Guest opinion: $8,000 bill illustrates health care ailments
Health care costs are way out of control, and the system needs serious reform. My recent experience at Valley View Hospital is a great illustration of how bad it’s gotten even in the Roaring Fork Valley.
I went to their emergency room on Oct. 6 with nausea and severe stomach pain that had lasted for several hours. The ER doctor ordered a CT scan and blood work, which was inconclusive. I was told to change my diet, eat more vegetables and walk more.
When I got the bill from Valley View for my 2½-hour ER visit, it was for $8,000.
In early November, I had the same symptoms, only this time I went to Glenwood Medical Associates during office hours. The physician examined me, ran some blood tests and immediately wanted to do another CT scan, which I refused. When I asked him if he had access to the scan that had been done about three weeks before in the ER, he said, “I don’t have access to that.”
I refused another CT scan. Blood tests revealed that now my liver enzymes were off the charts. The doctor prescribed some very strong antibiotics, on the premise that I had a bowel infection. I was warned by the pharmacist who filled the prescription to stop taking it if I experienced any joint pain, because one of the antibiotics attacks joints. After taking one dose, I experienced extreme shoulder pain and stopped taking them.
That evening, I began to experience dizziness and muscle cramps, and I suddenly realized that I was dehydrated. After drinking lots of water, the symptoms went away.
I went back to the doctor, told him about the antibiotic reaction, and that I started downing huge amounts of water, and the symptoms went away. He had new blood tests done, which showed my liver enzyme levels had been reduced by half. He said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. And you probably don’t need the antibiotics.”
I called the Valley View patient complaint line about the $8,000 bill for tests that did nothing to help find out what was really wrong with me. Vickie Smith, director of ER nursing, told me that she would have my bill audited. They subtracted for some procedures that weren’t actually done, but I still had a huge bill for being told to eat more vegetables, when what I really needed was to drink more water.
Valley View now wants to send the bill to a collection agency. I‘ll have to pay it to avoid letting them destroy my credit, but I will vote with my feet next time when it comes to them, unless I’m being carried in feet first and have no opportunity to object.
The Tudor castle on the hillside sure looks nice, but we working folks have to pay for it, come hell or high water. No matter whether the treatment was necessary or effective, as long as the huge bill gets paid, and you might be paying for something they didn’t even do.
Grand River Hospital in Rifle posts their charges on their website. An abdominal CT scan with contrast costs $1,329.00. Transparency and openness in health care costs, and the ability to shop around for effective care at reasonable costs, are the keys to gaining control of the monstrous health care system.
I won’t make the mistake I made with Valley View again. I can’t afford to.
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I wrote this column to share my story through my cultural assets: Aspirational, linguistic, familial, navigational, social, and resistant. I know we all have an open wound in our lives and I want to share…