How to go from ‘impending’ to ‘immediate’? Open the bill!

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

To: Mr. Joe Rich, President of Bumpy Mountain Medical Center. 

Dear Mr. Rich: I do apologize, I know your name isn’t really Mr. Rich. I know it’s Mr. Higgenbothamous, or whatever, but Rich just seems more appropriate somehow ... and a lot easier to spell. 
Anyway, my name is Vicki Wentz, and I am writing to you today with the following story for your consideration: Because I was experiencing shortness of breath, I was admitted to your hospital in July of this year on suspicion of a possible impending heart attack. (I was adamant, by the way, that I was not having -- or about to have -- a heart attack, but when it concerns the heart, you listen to your doctor’s advice, right? So, I stayed.)
Besides my low blood oxygen levels, there were no further symptoms throughout the night, and despite wanting to sing the “I told you so” song to every nurse on the floor, I simply smiled pleasantly when they told me the next morning that my heart was fine. Evidently, the bottom lobe of my right lung had collapsed, and I was advised simply to do some particular yoga exercises to help it open up -- and I was discharged.
And, by the way, I’m not a complainer, Mr. Rich, as anyone will tell you, but I must address the hospital cuisine. It’s not that the taste was objectionable -- and somehow I was never asked to make my own menu choices -- but here I was, on the cardiac ward, and dinner consisted of a huge square of baked lasagna, a large dinner roll, a few blanched lima beans and a giant piece of chocolate cake! Breakfast the next morning was two large pancakes with syrup, three sausage links, a cinnamon sweet roll, orange juice and a carafe of hot cocoa. 
Now, I am not a doctor, Mr. Rich, but I’m thinking these are not the dietary choices you feed someone who may have an “impending” heart attack! (I mean, some doctors will go to extraordinary lengths to prove they’re right, you know?)
For instance, a few weeks later, I received your bill -- for $4,863.26. I’ll tell you something, Mr. Rich, if opening that bill did NOT give me a heart attack, then I will outlive you and everyone else I know ... unless I get hit by a bus. 
Are you kidding me with this?! Sure, I occupied one of the beds, and three or four people drew my blood -- which was perfect except for that oxygen level thing -- during the night, and I had an EKG, a CT scan, and four baby aspirin. And, of course, I consumed everything on my meal trays ... well, except for the lima beans. But, $4,863.26? I don’t think so!
I told everyone it wasn’t my heart, and I was right, and while I realize you can’t necessarily base a diagnosis on a mother’s/teacher’s/columnist’s intuition, still I WAS RIGHT! It was just a little lung-lobe-collapse issue, and I left the hospital with some breezy, nonchalant instructions on how to do a few yoga poses. No surgery. No physical therapy. No medicine. No procedures or crutches or follow-up appointments. Just YOGA POSES.
At this point, I have consulted every yoga studio in my area, Mr. Rich, and none of them -- not one, mind you -- charges $4,863.26 to do yoga. In fact, one lady told me that $4,863.26 would buy me my own personal yoga instructor, who would come to my house every day, teach me yoga, make my lunch and vacuum the living room!
I’m not questioning your integrity or that of the hospital staff. I might, possibly, be questioning the sanity of the person in your business office who came to the conclusion that $4,863.26 was a reasonable sum for the services I was rendered. 
I realize that health care in this country is the best in this world, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else if I were really having an “impending” heart attack, heaven knows. (Although, now that I’ve seen this bill, I’m wondering how horrific the total would be if I actually did have a heart attack. I think I’d need to put my house on the market.)
Anyway, we need to do something in this country about health care costs. No, not health insurance -- health costs! And, Mr. Rich, I believe you and I, together, could set a national precedent on this -- possibly leading to an appearance before a congressional subcommittee -- by finding a way to reduce this bill to a normal, non-stroke-inducing figure that all would find rational ... or, I could send you $45 a month for the next ... uh ... until I die. 
Sincerely yours, Vicki Wentz.

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com