Regarding your June 17 Daily Dose item on Mississippi lawyer Richard Scruggs suing hospitals and the American Hospital Association over billing and collection practices, I hope the suit is widened to include Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
I became self-insured after being turned down for a policy by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. In September 2002, I went to the emergency room at Northwestern and was admitted for a three-day stay.
My room alone was $1,125 per night. Upon discharge, I asked Northwestern to provide me with the same discount it provides to insurance companies.
I did not ask for charity and I did not ask that my charges be written off. I pay my healthcare bills and I have a high regard for doctors and nurses for the services they provide. It is the financial and collection arms of institutions like Northwestern that lack sensitivity. These are the folks who called my room shortly after my admittance to Northwestern to inquire how I intended to pay my bill-never mind the tubes plugged into my body and down my throat.
Yes, I paid all my bills, and I was successful in negotiating a small discount-but only after hours and hours of negotiations.
The problem is that Northwestern, like many other institutions, has no policy in place for self-insured patients-except to get more money from us than it gets from the insurance companies. Maybe the generous donors to Northwestern should take that money and start a lobbying effort for the self-insured instead.
Until they do, and until the system changes, I am thankful that attorneys like Scruggs are around to sound the alarm.
... generates a response
Northwestern Memorial takes strong exception to Jerry Marcus' assertions. It is unfortunate he has confused the issue raised by the Scruggs lawsuit-which deals with discounts and charity care to those patients who truly have no means of paying their medical bills-and his own personal issue of how much of a discount a self-pay patient is entitled to.
We do, in fact, have policies for self-pay patients. Northwestern Memorial has for decades had an exemplary financial assistance program that equals or exceeds most of the proposals currently recommended by both the American Hospital Association and the Illinois Hospital Association. We provided more than $43 million worth of charitable care to our community and those in need last year. We would have been happy to include Marcus in that group had he not declined our multiple offers to participate in our program.
If a patient refuses to fill out a charity application, refuses to apply for state-assisted insurance programs and refuses financial counseling with our staff, how can we determine whether a discount on services is warranted?
Vice president of finance
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Lofton's lofty goal
Your coverage of healthcare industry chief executives testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee that looked at the tax-exempt status of hospitals was incomplete ("Surviving the heat," June 28, p. 6).
The opening remarks by Kevin Lofton, president and CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives, offered a suggestion that it's time to get serious about providing a federally backed national healthcare plan for the uninsured population.
I believe this is a story in itself. I cannot recall any other time when a CEO of one of the nation's largest not-for-profit health systems has publicly gone on record endorsing this move. Lofton and CHI are to be commended for such a bold call to action. It is time to begin a serious and open dialogue on this topic.
Morgan Executive Development Institute
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Carney coverage incomplete
Your brief article about the upcoming retirement of Bon Secours Health System's longtime president and CEO, Chris Carney, was disappointing and did a disservice to your readers (Late News, June 7, p. 4).
Chris' decision to set in motion an orderly succession plan was reluctantly accepted by the Bon Secours Health System board. Chris' visionary and inspirational leadership of our health system can be regarded as a model for others in our industry. To link his retirement decision to the unfortunate accounting irregularities at Bon Secours Cottage Health Services in Michigan is grossly inaccurate and misleading.
In fact, when he retires in March 2005, we believe the investigation of our Michigan system will be well behind us, and Chris Carney will have led Bon Secours Health System through an in-depth process designed to strengthen our reporting systems and prevent such a situation from recurring.
Had your reporter requested an interview before the article was printed, we would have gladly participated.
Sister Patricia Eck
Board of directors
Bon Secours Health System
A sharps response
Thank you for the article, "Sharper image" (June 28, p. 14), and the mention of the campaign by the National Alliance for the Primary Prevention of Sharps Injuries to protect medical residents and interns from suture needlesticks. As the article notes, many healthcare organizations have failed to comply with the laws regarding prevention of accidental needlesticks.
Healthcare decisionmakers will be interested to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has just released a report on this topic. Fact Sheet: Securing Medical Catheters outlines hazards related to the use of suture needles and tape to secure catheters. The document is available on OSHA's Web site at osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/fact sheet_catheters.html. Related OSHA fact sheets cover other needlestick-safety issues.
Primary prevention of sharps injuries-employing approaches that eliminate the need to use a sharp-provide the first and most effective line of defense against potentially deadly needlestick injuries. This is true even for such seemingly mundane procedures as inserting and securing a catheter.
National Alliance for the Primary Prevention of Sharps Injuries
What do you think?
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