Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Case of Emergency, Do Not Call 9-1-1

Back in March, Dave spent a couple of days in the hospital after suffering stroke-like symptoms. He underwent a CAT scan, chest X-ray, MRI, Doppler, stress test, blood work and something called a TEE, which basically involved having a microscopic camera shoved down his throat to take pictures of his heart. We walked away with a prescription for aspirin.

And some big, fat bills.

Dr. Glassenberg, the neurosurgeon, would like us or our insurance company to remit $200 for his consultative expertise, which consisted of him asking Dave to squeeze his hands—a procedure half a dozen nurses had performed free of charge—and grasping at straws, including attributing Dave’s symptoms to migraines, which Dave doesn’t get.

Dr. Kim, our attending physician, would like us or our insurance company to remit $550 for her services, which consisted of popping in on us once a day to see if we were still hanging around, thereby earning her another $125, and grasping at straws, including the possibility that Dave’s symptoms were all in his head (which I suppose could give a person a migraine).

Swedish Covenant Hospital would like us or our insurance company to remit $26,315.35 for various amenities: $4,346 for Laboratory Services, $3,510 for a Diag. Medical Exam (if that refers to the TEE I’m pretty sure they owe us), and so on. Our tab also included $3,190 for a two-night stay in a room without walls or a private bathroom. I knew we should have checked into a Hyatt. For that kind of coin, we could have spent a week in Cancun, although the result likely would have been the same—we both came home with some sort of intestinal thing, which is what happens when you share a toilet with people hospitalized for diarrhea.

Fine. Whatever. I expected that we or our insurance company would be bilked out of significant sums of money by the health care industry. I did not anticipate what arrived in the mail yesterday.

The City of Chicago Department of Revenue is charging us $433 for Emergency Ambulance Service from the Chicago Fire Department. That’s right, when my husband woke me up at 5 a.m. to tell me the left side of his body had gone numb, I dialed 9-1-1. And now the City wants remuneration for responding to the call.

Um, excuse me, isn’t that included in our taxes? You know, the $75 City Sticker fee we fork over every year for the privilege of parking on side streets where our car gets dinged on a daily basis. The 8.75% sales tax added onto all of our purchases. The $2,500 in property taxes. I thought that pretty much covered police, fire, snow removal, water filtration, fireworks on the 4th of July and tulips along Michigan Avenue. Doesn’t City Hall have plenty of other revenue streams, like parking meters and bribes? Do they really need to extract additional dollars from people frightened that a loved one is about to die?

Why stop there? Want the cops to investigate a crime? That’ll be $200 for assaults, $450 for robberies, $1,500 for homicides. You want streetlights on at night, take up a neighborhood collection. You want to ride your bike or go for a run along the lakefront path, that’ll be a $15 usage fee. You want to send your kid to a Chicago Public School, be prepared to pony up tuition.

I returned the bill to the City of Chicago Department of Revenue and provided our insurance information, as requested. I noticed that the $433 included $8 for mileage—the one mile from our house to the hospital. The next time Dave scares the crap out of me with a potentially life-threatening illness, I’ll drive him to the ER myself and park for $5. I won’t even ask him to pay me back. With the cash that we save, we can buy a lifetime's supply of aspirin.


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