One man's 'cautionary tale'

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Last May 25th I contracted an illness that literally drained me. I went to the local Urgent Care and was diagnosed with a virus and prescribed medication. The situation worsened throughout the day so much so that I became dangerously dehydrated. I am 61, have always had prominent veins in my hands which at this point were no longer visible. I simply couldn’t keep fluids down.

That evening I went to the emergency room at St. Luke’s in Newburgh and was treated with a saline IV and medication to offset the nausea. While the virus plagued me for two additional days, I was at least able to keep taking fluids to prevent any further complications.

Both my wife and I are retired. My wife worked for Monroe-Woodbury schools and we have perhaps one of the better health plans available. Being retired, we pay for that plan out-of-pocket. As with most health plans, we also pay a co-pay per visit and often receive additional $25 bills for “other” services such as anesthesiologist, tests, etc. It has become part of the many "tiny cuts" we tolerate with today's health industry. What was new this time was a $608 bill for a physician who apparently was out-of-network.

Mind you, I’ve been to St. Luke’s numerous times for colonoscopy, stroke, and other minor surgery. I’ve been to this rodeo a couple times already.

St. Luke’s knows both me and my health plan so I had no reason to expect a sudden “out-of-network” doctor assigned to me.

There simply was no precedent for this and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t clear-headed enough at the time to even suspect what would appear as a hefty boomerang billing in the later weeks.

To suddenly receive a $608 bill is really quite shocking. When I go to the hospital next time, am I to ask each and every doctor that says “hello, how are you doing today” if they are in my network before answering them and receiving a bill?

St. Luke’s certainly knows me through many years of treating me.

I guess this is the new “Health Care” we face as a society, but I’m willing to try to fight it and from what I understand, this is apparently not an isolated event.

According to the individual I spoke to at S. Luke’s patient billing services, they have run into this particular problem a few times already.

Health care is perhaps one of our most pressing issues, much has been said and nothing — if anything — has been done. In fact, for many of us it has gotten progressively worse.

I could use a little help and advice. I write this as a cautionary tale to warn others and perhaps gain a few additional voices to protest this disservice.


Viktor Prizgintas

Central Valley

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