It is hospital chain HCA’s policy to “wrest as much cash as humanly possible out of patients before they leave the building,” even if the patient hasn’t yet recovered from major surgery. The bedside shakedowns occur before the for-profit hospital submits its claims to the insurance company, shifting the burden of payment from insurance companies to patients. Stephanie Mencimer wrote about her experience with HCA after her father underwent knee replacement surgery:
Among the many hospital personnel who stopped in to see my father after surgery was a “financial counselor” from the billing office, who basically started stalking him from the minute he left the intensive care unit.
After making several unsuccessful visits to his room on Tuesday and Wednesday, she slipped her card under the door asking my dad to call her. A little busy recovering from major surgery, my dad didn’t get around to it. So on Thursday, the woman called him on the phone in his room, waking him from a much needed painkiller-induced nap to demand a $1,500 down payment on his surgery.
Still connected to IVs, a morphine pump and creepy-looking blood drains, my dad had enough to worry about without getting hassled by the billing office, like dying from a blood clot, or acquiring a drug-resistant infection from the guy in the next room. (Family and hospital staff alike were visiting the guy barehanded despite a big sign on his door warning people not to come within three feet of him without gowns, gloves and masks.) So I went down to the billing office to complain. A supervisor informed me that the counselor was making a “courtesy call” to inform my dad of the limits of his insurance policiy, but she acknowledged that it was hospital policy to wrest as much cash as humanly possible out of patients before they leave the building.
I told the supervisor that hassling post-op patients was incredibly inappropriate, especially given that most of them were too doped up on painkillers to even sign a consent form, much less negotiate billing options. If the hospital had wanted to discuss payment issues, it could have done so when my dad pre-registered with the hospital two weeks earlier. After some perfunctory apologies and some lame excuses, the woman thanked me for the feedback and I left. Later a nurse told us another patient had also complained of a similar shakedown, and she said the nurses were horrified but powerless to do anything about it.
Disgusting, but emblematic of for-profit hospitals. Avoid them if you can.
Hospital Shakes Down Post-Op Patients, In Their Beds [Mojo Blog]