My wrist is healing nicely, just a little bit slower than I would like. I am not a patient person; I’m ready for this splint to be gone. I want to open a bottle without tucking it under my arm, and I especially want to be able to type with two hands again. I feel like I am letting my readers down!
Another thing that I do not like is that the Emergency Room bills are starting to trickle in. Don’t get me wrong – I do not mind paying the bills. The doctors, nurses and staff provided a service that I really needed, and their efforts were very much appreciated. But everyone bills me separately… why can’t I just get one bill to cover everything????
Short answer: That’s not the way it works.
Longer answer: Whenever you go to the doctor, you receive a sheet of paper that you are to take to the front desk and give to the receptionist, who then calculates your bill. Basically, this is an invoice – it lists every service they provide along with a code number. If you use Medicare/Medicaid, the US Government requires this sheet to be coded and submitted correctly before they pay the doctor. And since the Government is the biggest kid on the block, the insurance companies follow their lead.
So this sheet is the key to everything: If it is coded and submitted in the proper way, the doctor gets paid. This sheet is why the medical system is so…. interesting. Every medical professional uses these sheets: Doctors, hospitals, EKG labs, Radiologists, Oncologists, this-ologist, that-ologist… everybody! In an ER or a lab you may not see the sheets, but they are there. And everyone wants to be paid.
That’s fair – a workman is worthy of his hire, after all. But since there is little co-ordination, you’ll have bills coming from every direction. While in the ER in Houston I got X-rays. But hospital employees didn’t do the X-rays, so that wasn’t in the hospital bill. An independent service working in the hospital took the films – so I owe the hospital, and the X-ray service. And the lab that analyzed my blood work. And so on.
Why can’t all these guys get their act together and mail me one bill? Pay it and forget it?
That idea known as Bundled Payments, are being worked on in various parts of the country. It would not have helped in my case – a bundled payment plan is aimed at chronic illness, where most of the patients follow a certain treatment plan. If most of the patients are getting the same services and/or the same drugs, it stands to reason that these people should be charged the same amount. Just check off the right boxes and the paperwork goes through – and the check is in the mail!
This seems a little too good to be true. The presence of the U.S. Government rarely simplifies anything! And while putting together one comprehensive bill would make things easier on the patient, what happens on the back end? When the Government or insurance company pays, what is the split? Who gets how much? I am certain there would be some entertaining discussions!
Maybe one day we’ll get the billing system more organized. But I wouldn’t be holding my breath.