Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

UK A&E or US ER?

I was half-listening late last night (24 September 2013) to the BBC rebroadcast of “ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer” to pickup American stories. I caught this story halfway through and had to look it up on the web to confirm that I had heard right.

Suzanna spent several hours in the emergency room in the summer of 2012 after troubling symptoms that she would later find out were related to cervical cancer. At the time, she was suffering pain and bleeding.

While the ER staff did not diagnose Suzanna’s condition at the time, the hospital did send her an $8,000 bill for tests and medication.

… [money-saving tips]

In Suzanna and Phillip’s case, using these tips turned a nearly $8,000 bill into a $1,151.14 bill.
ABC News Sep 25, 2013 ‘Real Money’: How to Save on Emergency Room Bills

The thrust of the story was how you could reduce an Emergency Room bill to a mere $1,151.14!

This is a sort of awful warning to those of us not yet at least slightly agitated about the creeping privatisation of (and denigration of) the National Health Service. When taken into A&E we are seen as patients requiring medical care; it would appear that when taken into ER you are seen as a profit opportunity.

So for the record the money-saving tips recommended by ABC News “Real Money” team are:

1. Before an emergency strikes, have a medical bag handy. This bag should contain your doctor records, allergies and current medications. The medical bag will help you avoid paying for what you do not need. …

2. While you are at the hospital, document everything. Your list should contain every treatment you receive and any medications given. Be sure not to leave without an itemized bill, so you can compare it to your log and check for errors. …

3. Negotiate your bill. Request to go over your bill with someone at the hospital. You can ask about your options. It can become a back and forth negotiation process.

So when in hospital, don’t be a sick patient, be an alert assertive audit and purchase clerk. And remember that if you are alert enough to be such an audit clerk, UK Tory ministers would say you are not ill enough to need A&E.

And finally remember that all health systems have rough edges. In a wide-scope system like ours those rough edges are within the NHS system – where there is at least a chance that a passing nurse will recognise that all is not well. In the US, the rough edges are in the homes of those who are too poor to afford health care and if they are lucky a relative may try to apply cheap quack remedies.

And the republicans are still trying to block “Obamacare” – which they seem as a derogatory term. (ref ABC News Sept 25 2013 Ted Cruz’s Obamacare All-Nighter Ends After 21 Hours) Clearly I don’t understand (some) Americans.


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