Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Do Not Pay Emergency Room Bills, Poors. This Is How.

NOT YOUR MOMMA'S "ER"I frequently meet people, most of them young and poor, who are burdened by debts to emergency rooms, and I am always shocked that these people with no money are even considering paying. Here is how it is done, in a strangely servicey explanation from Vice.

As a person with next to no money, my approach to personal finance borrows very heavily from my understanding of The Great Depression and the film The Road Warrior. Therefore, I conduct myself at all times with a shameless, don't-care-how-embarrassing pragmatism. So whenever a problem with my health presents itself, I just head to the emergency room with no intention of paying anyone for anything… As long as I don't delude myself with dreams of one day financing a house or of answering my phone without getting yelled at by a stranger, emergency rooms are basically a Supermarket Sweep of free medical treatment.

17 Comments / Post A Comment

Tyler Coates (#451)

…and that is why they charge fifty bucks for gauze and medical tape.

mathnet (#27)

just so people know if you need to go to the ER don't give them your real name say you have no I.D. or social security card and you don't know the number if it's an emergency they still have to treat you

Posted by: d | 03/06/2009 at 00:37

This is also true when you go to the free clinic for any std test. Otherwise if you test positive your real name ends up on some public health list.

In LA the county hospital charges $75/$1,500 (may have gone up)for uninsured ER visits. It's $75 if you pay within 7 days, after that it goes up to $1,500. Though I wouldn't go there for anything other than a bullet extraction because for $75 they prefer to amputate rather than operate.

hman (#53)

Some hospitals will treat you in exchange for diapers, prime cuts of meat, and jugs of laundry detergent.

Minou (#258)

Where I live people mostly pay with lobsters.

Minou (#258)

Which is ironic now that I think about it because 9 times out of 10 it was lobsters that put 'em in the ER to begin with. Huh.

Hez (#147)

Or, you know, move to Canada. Drastic, but effective!

On the plus side, you can gay marry anybody in the damn place and smoke wicked fat joints at your wedding!

nadie (#807)

A couple more things: hospitals have two sets of prices for services: estimates of their actual cost, and the prices they negotiate and actually get paid by insurers, which could be 30-50% lower. They also have two ways of categorizing the cost of care they don't get paid for: "bad debt," which is what happens when they bill you and you don't pay and they harass you in all the usual ways, and "charity care," which is services that they don't expect to get paid for and count as part of their contribution to the "community" to justify their tax-exempt status. The upshot of all this is that when you go to the ER as an uninsured person, they will try to charge you their full estimated cost of a service – so you should try to negotiate. If you were insured, they might only be charging your insurer half what they're asking you to pay (and this doesn't even include whatever copay cost-sharing structure you'd have if you were insured). Also, if you know that you can't afford to pay at all, right off the bat you should try to get yourself into the "charity care" column, rather than the "bad debt" one, by telling them that you have no ability to pay and do not anticipate being able to.

SeaBassTian (#281)

"I’m just too lazy to find a real job. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m invincible." could be my new mantra for living without health insurance. Great to know I am not alone.

I wondered why I was charged 1100 clams for a band-aid when I lightly broke my nose a few years ago but then I realized they were charging 150 an hour for the wait. Get fucked, St. Vincent's (and GOP obstructionist terrorists).

Abe Sauer (#148)

I don't get it. This doesn't seem to be a piece about how to get free health care, it seems to be a piece about how to be moneyless (and permanently so) and how one of the benefits of being permanently moneyless is free health care.

JamesAven (#822)

I have been using Desktop Budget from to manage my personal finances for a few months now. Its the easiest to use free, offline personal finance software I have seen so far.

GailPink (#9,712)

A very funny article written by a guy whose personal philosophy I am forced to disagree with. Live and let live, I guess.

failedwings (#207,065)

I went to the ER for what I found out was a kidney stone…got the bill and it was 3000 dollars for everything, including 97 dollars for one anti-nausea pill that was given to me while I was there. Thankfully my county has program that covers health care costs for poor people, so after that I only had to pay 64 dollars for everything. Saved!

Moval Vida@facebook (#227,219)

"Thankfully my county has program that covers health care costs for poor people"
So does this country. Its called Medicaid and we dont even have to pay the 64.00 dollars LOL I wonder why the author of this post doesn't just get medicaid? Sure its a hassle to go and fill out all the paperwork but then you dont have to be worrying about this. Do people realize they can get Medicaid, especially if they make money off the books as waiters? I meet so many uninsured students, actors, waiters and I dont get why they don't apply. Is it a pride thing?

mitza (#240,131)

I really don't want to sound like an old timer, but what you are doing is wrong. I'm sorry for you and that getting treatment in an emergency room requires payment, but we do need to pay for services. Let me put it another way, would you like if your electric company or internet provides would do the same? I do custom designed stickers as a job and I would get really mad if I had a client like you. Try to understand and obey the system.

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