Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville Regional Hospital ER visit: apathetic care at a high price

My son's helmet, thankfully, saved him from a serious head injury when he fell off his bicycle in June.

Still, his lower teeth just about cut through to the skin, leaving a hideous gash inside his mouth. Red scrapes covered his face like war paint, and a gravel-flecked divot in his chin went almost to the bone.

Since this happened on a Saturday evening, my wife and I felt we had no choice but to drive him to the emergency room of the closest hospital, Brooksville Regional.

My aim here is to discuss the cost of his care and what it says about the need for reforming our medical system, not to judge a local hospital based on one visit.

And, because four months have passed and my then-11-year-old son was the patient, I don't fully trust my memory or objectivity.

The hour I remembered us spending in the waiting room, for example, was actually 23 minutes, the hospital told me last week.

If the physician's assistant seemed snippy, well, my wife and I, impatient for my son to be treated, were probably snippy, too.

I could comment on the emergency management technician to whom the actual care of my son — that is, washing out his wounds with saline solution — was delegated. I could say he showed all of the concern and pride of a prison trusty and, with a barbed-wired tattoo circling his biceps, kind of looked like one. But that would be judging based on appearance.

My memory might have been further clouded by the fact that before my boy received any real medical attention, a clerk walked into the room to ask us how we wanted to handle our co-payment.

Okay, I guess I've done it to some degree: criticized Brooksville Regional's care. And maybe that's okay. Because the issue here is value — what patients get for the money. What we got was competent enough that my son made a complete recovery. But the care seemed apathetic and incredibly overpriced.

I knew hospitals operated in a reality separate from the normal free market. But until now I didn't realize they were quite up there in the same otherworldly realm as defense contractors.

Brooksville Regional charged $1,036 for our hour or two in the emergency room, including $81.88 for "supplies" (an ice pack, saline and gauze) and $91.95 for "drugs" (two ibuprofen tablets and three little foil envelopes of Neosporin).

Then came the separate bill of $508 for a doctor whom we never saw.

There was, however, a doctor on hand who supervised my son's care, said Brooksville Regional chief financial officer Greg Pearson. The cost of accessing the emergency room is based on the staff and equipment the hospital must keep on hand there, Pearson said.

"We have to be prepared for a train wreck," he said.

Also, he pointed out, neither private nor government insurers typically pay the full fare. True, but since my insurance company received a discount of only about 20 percent, and still paid $73.10 for Motrin and Neosporin, this explanation didn't satisfy me.

I found a better one in How American Health Care Killed My Father, a brilliant article in the September issue of the Atlantic magazine (theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care/4).

Author David Goodhill wrote that the inflation of medical treatment and growing indifference to quality has come about because "you are not the customer." Doctors and hospitals don't have to satisfy us or charge us fairly because insurers have so much say in where we seek care and how much it costs.

The insurers, of course, pass this expense back to us, Goodhill writes, which is why a 22-year-old worker and his employer might expect to pay $1.77 million for health insurance over the course of his lifetime.

Emergency care is especially far removed from its true value.

To justify the regulatory privileges that allow hospitals to claim, for example, 38 times as much money from Medicare as they did in 1970, Goodhill suggests they overstate the costs of emergency care and therefore the amount of free service they provide to indigent patients.

"Consider the oft-quoted 'statistic' that emergency-room care is the most expensive form of treatment. Has anyone who believes this ever actually been to an emergency room?"

I have and, no, I don't believe it.

Brooksville Regional Hospital ER visit: apathetic care at a high price 10/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 11, 2009 6:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: For Class of 2016, college debt loads favor Florida graduates

    Banking

    Florida college graduates saddled with student debt: Take heart. The average debt Class of 2016 Florida grads must bear is less than students in most states.

    University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. A new survey finds their average student debt upon graduating was $22,276. Statewide, 2016 Florida grads ranked a relatively unencumbered 45th among states, averaging $24,461 in student debt. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Romano: One person, one vote is not really accurate when it comes to Florida

    Politics

    Imagine this:

    Your mail-in ballot for the St. Petersburg mayoral election has just arrived. According to the fine print, if you live on the west side of the city, your ballot will count as one vote. Meanwhile, a ballot in St. Pete's northeast section counts for three votes.

    Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)
  3. St. Petersburg will hold first budget hearing tonight

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine City's new property tax rate looks exactly like its current rate. For the second year in a row, Mayor Rick Kriseman does not plan to ask City Council for a tax hike or a tax cut.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  4. 'We were lucky': Zephyrhills, Dade City get back to normal after Irma

    Hurricanes

    Two weeks after Hurricane Irma struck Florida, residents and city officials in eastern Pasco — hit harder than other areas of the county — are moving forward to regain normalcy.

    Edward F. Wood, 70, tugs at a branch to unload a pile of debris he and his wife picked up in their neighborhood, Lakeview in the Hills in Dade City.
  5. After Hurricane Irma, many ask: How safe are shelters?

    News

    NAPLES — Residents of the Naples Estates mobile home park beamed and cheered when President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott strolled amid piles of shredded aluminum three days after Hurricane Irma to buck up residents and hail the work of emergency responders. But almost nobody had anything good to say about …

    The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area opened its doors to anyone seeking temporary shelter during Hurricane Irma. Evacuees were housed in the Istaba multipurpose building and was quickly at capacity housing over 500 people. [Saturday, September 9, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]