I threw my back out 3 weeks ago. I was in severe pain and could barely move, so my wife took me to the ER at Baylor Scott & White Lakepointe hospital. There were a number of people in the lobby and we asked how long it would take to be seen. They said they were not sure, but that we could check-in and get "triaged."
The triage consisted of taking my temperature and blood pressure (3 minutes tops). Oh, and they asked my pain level, which I told them was a level 10. Which if you've ever seen the Brian Reagan comedy routine about ER's, that means I was right up there with childbirth and having my femur bone cracked in half.
They said, "great" and sent me back out to the lobby.
Ah, the ER lobby. A place of pain, coughing, fevers, moaning, and wondrous delight. It was here that we waited, and waited, and waited for 2.5 hours in the lobby. No one, and I mean not a single patient, was admitted into the ER to see a doctor during that whole time. All of these poor other folks and myself just sat in the lobby watching reruns of Bones and practices our bad lip reading skills since the volume was so low no one could hear the show. "I love tacos, Bones, and the Senator died of Chicken Fizz at high noon. No it was monkeys and bread. Definitely monkeys and bread." (My skilled lip reading interpretation.)
A handful of other patients, who'd been waiting a few hours (yes, I said a few hours) longer than we'd been waiting, got up and left the ER to go seek care elsewhere. We asked the front desk (where we were triaged) how much longer they anticipated the wait would be and they said 3-4 hours!!! Seriously! So now you know the wait time?
We told them we couldn't wait that long and we left to go to an urgent care facility. They said "okay, no problem" with a friendly smile as we left.
But now I imagine them tapping their fingers together and saying, "excellent" like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons as soon as we, and all the other patients, left the ER lobby to go elsewhere. Why? Because 3 weeks later we get a bill for $250 from the ER!!!
Yes, that's no typo. They charged me $250 for taking my temperature and blood pressure, oh, and for making me making me sit in writhing pain for 2.5 hours.
I called Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Lake Pointe to contest the bill and they said once you're triaged and they take your vitals, they charge you for it and there's nothing you can do about it.
The amazing thing to me is that all of those patients who left the lobby before me are going to get charged $250 for being "triaged."
I need to get in on this "triage" racket. Seriously, that's what it is--a racket!
Customer service also said, "if you had just asked to see a doctor and not been triaged, you would not have been charged when you left."
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THIS?!? We went to the front desk, and they asked me to follow them behind the door to get checked in and to take my vitals.
There wasn't a sign or warning we were about to get charged $250. They didn't give me a choice and say I could just wait to be seen by a doctor.
Can you imagine this scenario with any other service industry?
Say you took your car in for an oil change.
Customer: How long's the wait?
Mechanic: Oh, we've got people ahead of you, but we'll get you in as soon as we can. Why don't we get you checked in and I'll look at the oil level and check your tire pressure while you wait.
Customer: Okay, thank you
(2.5 hours later)
Customer: So do you have any idea how much longer it will be before you can change my oil?
Mechanic: Actually, like 3-4 hours.
Customer: Okay, well I can't wait that long. I'm going to go head somewhere else.
Mechanic: No problem.
They retrieve your car and hand you your keys, along with a bill.
Mechanic: That will be $250
Customer: What? You haven't done anything.
Mechanic: Oh, we checked your oil and tire pressure
Customer: That took like 3 minutes and I can do that myself from home.
Customer: Yeah, but we have to charge you since you checked in.
Customer: Um, you never said it would be $250.
Mechanic: Well, if you'd asked for "only" an oil change and not had the check-in, then we wouldn't have charged you.
Customer: Well, you didn't tell me any of this up front. I'm not paying.
Mechanic: If you don't, we'll have to send the bill to collections and it will destroy your credit, which means you can't get that new minivan your wife wants, and you'll be stuck renting forever, so your wife will leave you for Antonio who owns that Italian restaurant around the corner, you'll go bankrupt paying alimony, and live on the streets for a year before a buddy of yours gives you a job working at his auto shop.
Customer: Uhmm, wow, okay. Yeah, I'll pay the bill. I love my wife too much. And thanks for the tip about Antonio (I really loved their lasagna).
Can you see where I'm heading with this? I could replay this same scenario with lots of other services and it would be just as ridiculous.
Needless to say, I will never go back to a Baylor Scott & White hospital again. And if you go to an ER, be sure to ask if they're going to charge you for the triage, how much it costs, and if you can just see a doctor instead.