This morning, a combination of my own worry and that of my friends made me decide to see what I could do about getting some sort of treatment for my painful toe.
First, I drove over to the Round Rock Serving Center and was told by a very helpful lady there that the medical clinic is elsewhere. Called "Circle of Care," they have offices and clinics in both Round Rock and Georgetown. I was told that my best bet was the Georgetown office, but that I should call the main number. There, they promised me that they had "availability of New Patient appointments," but the next one would not be until October 15th, and, in any case, they had no X-ray capability. The lady told me I should just go to the ER. So I did.
I told them at the triage window that I had no insurance, and, as my friend had assured me, they agreed to treat me. I was poked, prodded and Xrayed, and you will be as happy as I was to know, Dearly Beloved, that my toe is not broken, and I am in no danger from bone splinters or anything else. Except tetanus, but they took care of that, too. After I had signed and initialed seventy-leven bits of paper, they provided me with a large sheet of red paper, festooned with black Xs, and sent me off to find the Financial Counsellor. The red paper was, of course, to let everyone in the ER and the waiting room know that I was a charity case. The Financial Counsellor's waiting room is the same one where I sat with Brendan for several hours after Jim died, making police reports and waiting for the ME. It was painful to sit there.
The Financial Counsellor took my sheet of red paper, and gave me a blue brochure instead, and sent me off through a maze of corridors to find the office of Resource Corporation of America, which is an organization that advocates for patients and helps them through the bureaucratic morass necessary to obtain government assistance with medical bills. There, I was informed that they have two programs: Medicaid, and a County Assistance program. In order to qualify for the former, I would have to have a child under eighteen living in my home. In order to qualify for the latter, I would have to have been out of work for three months. Hence, both programs were non-starters, and I wended my way back to the Financial Counsellor.
The upshot was that the hospital gave me a 61% discount, reducing the total I owe to around $220, and worked out a payment plan that I can probably live with.
The cost was not as bad as I had feared, and the diagnosis was good. I was offered a prescription for painkillers, but refused it, as I can't afford to fill it.
I returned home, reassured, exhausted and humiliated. Charity is, to me, a "C" word, only slightly less objectionable than the other one.