My Annual Trip to the Emergency Room
I started a dubious tradition a few years ago of having at least one trip to the emergency room within a calendar and/or health insurance benefit year. One year it was my bout with pneumonia. Last year I was having abdominal pains which couldn’t decide which abdominal quadrant in which it wanted to settle. Fortunately all the tests came back negative for appendicitis that time.
Yes, I still have my appendix and, now that I think about, my tonsils are still present at the top of my throat.
This year, my trip involved a bit more drama. I was sitting at my work desk listening to some health insurance representative prattle on why the claim I had asked to be processed last month had made zero progress towards resolution, when I began to feel light-headed. (Personal note to Warrior Queen: and by light-headed I mean more light-headed than usual.) I got up, hoping a short walk would alleviate my symptoms.
No such luck.
I went to my supervisor’s cube and explained the situation. She immediately had me sit down while she summoned one of the nurses on site. The nurse was over within minutes, took my blood pressure and listened to my heart. Her prognosis was surprising on the first count — my blood pressure was low — but not surprising on the second count — my heart beat was irregular. My cardiologist has been telling me that for years, but since I’ve had no major issues since my surgery in 2008, then we accept my irregular heart as an “it is what it is” condition.
The nurse recommended that I go to an emergency room.
I feared that my office management would summon an ambulance. My trepidation is several fold. The ambulance company is usually out-of-network and therefore I would be subject to a balance above what my insurance carrier believes is a generous usual and customary rate for an emergency transport. This is a trap we hear about all the time at my job.
Also the ambulance would take me to the nearest hospital, considered to be third-tier caliber, but not out of my network. The result could be a higher coinsurance rate for myself. If I had my druthers, then I would want the ambulance to take me to the next hospital just a few miles beyond their convenient choice.
Also, I didn’t feel that my light-headed condition warranted the use of an emergency life or death
I called Warrior Queen, who agreed to pick me up at work. Her agreement wasn’t 100% willingly: she had taken the previous day off for International Woman’s Day, where women all over the world stayed home from their job if they could afford to do so and refrain from buying anything to strike a blow against patriarchal cultures everywhere. Thus she was a full day behind on her work and she needed no distractions — such as taxiing an ill spouse to an emergency room — to get caught up.
I also called my doctor’s office for an appointment and fortunately snagged a time for the mid-afternoon. I know I was told to go straight to the emergency room, but I felt I should at least have a recommendation from my PCP before I showed up at the local hospital.
Again, my reason was economics. I have dealt with a few cases in the past year where insurance carriers refused to pay for emergency room services without some sort of physician’s office visit within proximity of the emergency services on record. Apparently some carriers believe that a physician’s blessing is needed before you can Pass Go and continue to the hospital. Otherwise the emergency services at a facility costing several thousands of dollars would be denied.
Ah, the health insurance industry! How the hell do they sleep at night?
First order of business was to grab a fast burger lunch. Warrior Queen had not had much breakfast and she surmised that my present physical condition was due to the lack of proteins in my breakfast (leftover pasta in a meat sauce which obviously did not have as much meat in it as I thought). Then, on to my doctor appointment. There we recounted my symptoms, verified that my blood pressure had improved, and indeed got a second recommendation to proceed to the emergency room.
Yes, I could Pass Go, but not collect $200. Bummer!
At the emergency room, I was seen by no less than a treating physician, a supervising physician, at least three different nurses and/or health aides, and at least one x-ray technician. I verified that I was not experiencing chest pains or any other symptoms of a cardiac event. My blood sugar was measured and showed that, while I am still flirting with becoming diabetic, my glucose this time was lower than my previous blood work for my cardiologist appointment in February.
All of the medical minds in the emergency room settled on dehydration as my final diagnosis. Apparently I drank more diuretics (coffee, diet cola) than water that day to counter act the negative reaction I experienced that morning.
Imagine that! I have a drinking problem!
I was in and out of the hospital within a few hours once an IV treatment had restored the liquid level in my body. Now I am dreading the delivery of the bill. I figure this will certainly meet my deductible for the year, and honest, Blue Cross, I was trying to not have any medical issues this year so you wouldn’t have to pay anything. Alas, not to be.
And all this transpired while the health care reform debate raged in Washington. I was able to view some news coverage of that circus while I waited for my finger to be pricked, my lab work to be processed, and my chest x-ray to be reviewed. The latest Ryan/Trumpcare proposal would probably allow health insurance carriers to eliminate such benefits as emergencies just so they can offer policies with lower premiums. Yes, I have coverage for emergencies this year, but what about the coming years when our comprehensive coverage now could be diluted so that everyone can afford the premiums? Health insurance payments for emergencies could cap out at $50 after meeting a deductible which one study suggests could be as high as $25,000 (!), if they are covered at all?
The mere thought of health insurance things to come is enough to drive me to drink…and I don’t mean water!
(Thank you for reading. PS - Warrior Queen also survived my health ordeal.)