Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting My Toe Treated

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.


  1. So glad you're OK after all. Even at $220.00 you did do the right thing. Horrible you had to go where you had had such bad memories from before though; I've been catching up on your "back-story" and didn't feel I "knew" you well enough to comment, but, for what its worth...

  2. Thanks, did give me a bit of a turn...

  3. The irony of it all is that all the ER visits that people without insurance have to go to because Dr.'s cannot see them gets put into the taxpayer bill too. I wonder if they put those savings into the equation.

  4. My point exactly. And the friend who advised me to go to the ER posted this comment on my Facebook post, "A Little Anecdote":

    "If you have no money, they will eventually absorb the cost. Before that, they will try to work out a gradual payment plan with you. Believe me, there are people who go to the ER who have less $ than you! They cannot turn you down just because you have no $. EVERY county hospital has to offer "indigent care" (not that you are indigent, LOL) Just go... worry about the rest later! You;d go if you were having a heart attack, wouldn't you??"

    and then:

    "but here's the deal, Ronnie..... if you don't go when it's a "little thing", you risk it turning into a BIG thing. A big thing will put you out of work, and it will cost you a lot more in the long run than a little thing. Just go.... they have people who can't pay ALL the time, and some of them don't even CARE that they can't pay. Some people use the ER as their family doctor, and go every week. You are CERTAINLY entitled to an ER visit for an emergency!"

    And the kicker is, she is strongly opposed to national health care!

  5. ...and the other kicker is that she's a nurse! I think she's mad at me, now.

    (These posts are automatically imported into Facebook, so I get a second set of comments there.)

  6. And as a nurse she is opposed WHY? When she sees what it costs?

  7. Melissa, I don't know. I know she was a Bush supporter, so I guess she drank the koolaid.

    The thing is, she is an intelligent, generous and caring person. I do not understand, at all.

  8. I know what you mean. People think because they happen to have it OK now with their ins. nothing should change. WRONG! My ins. has gone up about 40% in just the last 3 years (from 2007 to 2008 it went up a WHOLE lot more) and the services covered are less each year. If coverage went up as price went up, or at least stayed the same, that would be different. At this rate I expect eventually I will not be able to afford it- don't know what I'll do then. Just join all the rest of the uninsured and declare bankruptcy if one of us gets sick like so many others have to these days. Doesn't this country understand what happens when you shrink the tax-base due to bankruptcies? Because of my husband's aneurysm I know he'll never be able to get it on his own.

    The thing with nurses or any other health care professionals- their hospital will take care of them, they don't have to think twice about that (at least that was the way it was at MGH, way when), so they have the luxury of not worrying about it like the rest of us have to. And honestly, unless they work in Billing they haven't a clue what everything actually costs there anyway.

  9. That last is certainly true. When I worked at the hospital, the insurance was lovely, with $50 co-pay at the ER, etc. $5 generic prescriptions, and $10 name brands.

    Ah, the good old days! Of course, they fired me when my son got the measles. And my son got the measles because, with my odd schedule and no transportation, I couldn't get him in for shots and he was three weeks late for that one. I probably took the germs home to him...he was only 18 months old.

    We need affordable health coverage for the working poor. If I had been out of work for at least three months, I would have qualified for a County program, but, as I soldier on with my job, I can't get any help at all.

  10. Glad you got it seen to - but $220 with a 61% discount? That seems excessive. You wouldn't believe what veterinarians could do for your dog with that kind of money in this country!

  11. That's the truth, Nelly- but I know folks are now getting their pets' prescriptions filled at Wal-mart as a "human" med (cutting the dosage) for the cheaper co-pay! If its just a typical anti-biotic, pain med or oral steroid, they figure why not? So maybe vets will start utilizing those x-ray machines to check out possible fractures for us!

  12. It really is ridiculous the amount of legwork they put you through. Hospitals are like complex machines, they are very good at keeping people alive, but they insist on a convoluted processing system.

  13. Ronni, I'm glad your toe is ok. And I'm sorry you had to suffer humiliation on so many levels. But I have to ask, did they make you WALK to all those different places on your bad toe? Tell me no! Where has common sense gone?

  14. Yes. Walk. To be fair, though, if it had actually been broken, they would have provided a wheelchair.