Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Time Someone Said Something

I don't usually ask that anyone promote my blog. I'm not asking for that today, either. BUT, I would ask that you post a link to this particular post to anyone you know. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, your favorite local news link, or whatever. It's time for someone to speak up, and make things right.

As you know, Liam has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. Thankfully, his most recent stays have been very brief. Through it all, we've had our fair share of incidents with one hospital in particular. You may recall THIS INCIDENT or some of the many things that went wrong over the summer while he was in the care of this particular hospital. We had a doctor tell us we can't choose our child's color when we expressed concern over him being blue, nurses fail to come despite alarms going off and us begging them to come in only to discover that he truly was in distress, and had his oxygen turned off by a cleaning lady who told us the O2 was really just optional. I let all of those things go, although I did blog them for my own therapeutic benefit.

Well, they've screwed up again. DALLAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, IT'S TIME YOUR NAME BE PUT OUT THERE FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW ABOUT! I am typically a very reasonable person, but things have got to improve there before someone is seriously injured or billed unreasonable prices due to stupid mistakes.

Back in October, Liam had some trouble and spent a little time in the hospital under observation. He had chest X-rays, and a test for pulmonary hypertension. We were there just under 24 hours, and were billed just over $7,000.00. Of that, we had to pay $50.00. Our insurance covered the rest. I blogged that stay HERE. Overall, I was pleased with the whole experience.

Then, in February, he got RSV and had some trouble wanting to drink. His sats and disposition were fine, but Dr. Sanchez wasn't pleased with the amount of fluids he was taking. Since she couldn't see him in her office, she felt like she wanted him admitted for observation just to be sure he was okay.

This stay was so minimal that I didn't even blog it. We arrived and he was admitted to the unit around 8pm on the 18th of February. He got a bag of rehydrating fluids, had some chest x-rays, and some breathing treatments. The respiratory people gave him the meds, but I administered the treatments. Other than that, the stay was identical to the stay in October. He was on the same unit with the same nurses and the same doctor overseeing his care. We left at around 5pm on the 19th.

The price tag for that stay? $27,778.00. Yep. You read that right. I called to figure out where the error was and they said he was inpatient so everything costs more. I said that, no he was there for observation. They argued. I fought. They argued.

I called back again today and begged them to compare the two stays and see that he received essentially the same treatment both times. They relented and said that he was inpatient because it was 25 hours that he was there in February. This is the exact conversation we had:

"What? 8pm one day to 5pm the next day is 25 hours?"

"Yes, ma'am. It is."

"No, it's not. Are you crazy?"

Customer service rep. starts asking another billing specialist to help her count, and they both agree that it's 25 hours.

"Seriously? Can I talk to someone else?"


"Someone who can count would be great!"

"Ma'am, count it. It's 25 hours."

"No, it's not. 8pm today to 5pm tomorrow does not equal 25 hours."

"Yes, it does."

"Fine. Let's count each hour. Let me get a piece of paper."

"That's a great idea, ma'am."

We count. I get to 5pm the next day.

"21 hours! Ding, ding ding! It's 21 hours."

"Can you please hold?"

"Um, yeah. Sure."

She comes back to the phone and concedes that it is indeed less than 25 hours. (Yeah. Duh!) Then she says she's looking over the itemized bill and there are the two $10,000.00 IV injections he received. Um, WHAT?!?! He got IV fluids for hydration in case he was truly dehydrated.

I ask her to please tell me what the drugs were for. She says she's never seen this drug listed before, and has to ask a nurse. She'll call me back in a few minutes. I figure I'll be waiting about 25 hours.

So, one of two things has happened. Either A). He was billed twice for a drug he never got. OR B). My child was negligently given a very expensive drug he was never meant to have. Which do you think it was?

On so many levels, there are things seriously wrong here.

1. If he really was an inpatient, the hospital justifies charging a three times as much for the stay even though he got exactly the same treatment as when he was there for observation. That's like saying two people could show up to the grocery store for a gallon of milk. One could come in a rolls royce and the other on a motorcycle. One would be charged $200.00 for his gallon of milk while the other pays only $4.00. And we wonder why medical bills are so out of control in America? Good hard working Americans are paying high premiums for insurance only to be charged huge fees for care they never received. I even called the insurance to report the problem, and the insurance felt that these were reasonable. I told them that Liam hadn't received some of these things (2 IV's at $10,000/each). They did nothing. Just paid it out, and charged me a high premium for it. NOT OKAY!

2. The people in billing at Dallas Children's Hospital not even able to tell time let alone recognize how many hours a child was in their care. These are the billing specialists! These are the people who take my credit card number and apply charges to it. THEY CAN'T COUNT TO 21!!! This is a serious problem. (I genuinely hope that call was recorded.)

3. A child was either given a drug he shouldn't have had, or he was billed for very expensive drugs he should never have had. Either way, it's a problem that needs to be resolved.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the girl in billing who is looking into the IV charges. She said she'd call back in a few minutes. That was at 2pm and it's now 6:31pm. So, about 25 hours later and I'm still waiting. ;)

I want the record to show that the doctors and nurses involved in this situation did their jobs well. They paid attention to my child's needs. They listened to my concerns. As always, the direct care staff did there jobs precisely right while the executives and white collar workers screwed things up. Again.

I'm hoping you'll share this story with anyone who will listen. Forget health care reform. Simply fixing billing and fact checking processes for medical care could potentially save us all more money than we can count.

I may be just one voice, but my voice matters. When it's combined with other voices, it is heard. For the safety and best interest of our wallets and more importantly our children, feel free to share this post.

In all fairness to the hospital, I will continue to update as changes come. I'm confident this will be resolved fairly in due time.