The Hospital Plan
When I had my lap band done (a surgical procedure that aids in weight loss), my surgeon assured me he had it set up with the hospital that his patients only had to pay $15,000. Being skeptical, I called the hospital and talked to a woman by the name of Kelly.
Kelly assured me, “The surgery usually costs about $28,000 and as long as you don‘t go over that amount it will only be $15,000 and you have to pay upfront, before the procedure.”
I thought about that and then asked three very pointed questions of Kelly. First: “Define usually please.”
“Well, as long as it’s routine, you don’t have any complications, no blood transfusions and you’re in and out of the OR and recovery in the typical amount of time.”
Second: “What about lab tests: Are those extras?”
“No, they go along with the $15,000,” Kelly answered. “Except for your stress test. Because you’re a heart patient they need one prior to your surgery date and that will be at an additional cost to you.”
Third: “Anesthesiology? Am I going to get a separate bill from them after the surgery or are they also included?”
“You will not receive a bill because that is also included in the $15,000.”
“You’re sure?” I asked for confirmation.
Kelly laughed into the phone and answered, “Positive.”
When I went to put a down payment on the lap band surgery, I again, almost verbatim, asked Kelly the same three questions, including the “are you sure?” part of the questions. Almost verbatim, she repeated back the same answers as if I had never asked them of her before.
At the time I paid for the rest of the surgery, one more time, I went over the same three questions and, one more time, she gave me the same three answers.
The surgery went off without a hitch and I was in recovery thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
My doctor came in, being fully aware of the $15,000 deal, as it was his own agreement with the hospital, and said, “That was one of the easiest lap bands I’ve ever done. Very routine, very simple,” he assured. “I want you to stay in recovery for at least an hour but you can stay for up to two hours if you need to."
After the first hour, the recovery nurse came to me and told me that as soon as I could walk twenty feet, I could go home.
I sat up in the bed, dangled my feet, and said, “Let’s do this.”
She tried to sit me back in the bed. “Wait, I’m not sure if you’re ready to walk yet.”
I turned to her and said, “I‘m ready to get this started because by this time next year, I plan to have a thong and two new boobs. So, either you’re walking with me or I’m dragging you behind me. Either way, I’m getting out of this bed.”
We walked twenty feet together and twenty minutes later I was getting dressed and walking out the door. I had been in recovery, for roughly, an hour and a half.
Two weeks after the surgery, I received a $2,500 bill from the anesthesiologist. I called and asked them to explain the bill. When they explained it was for the lap band, I expressed what the hospital had told me. They denied that was ever the case and wanted to set up payments.
“Hold that thought,” I said and hung up to call Kelly.
“I was just getting ready to call you,” she said once I identified myself on the phone. “You’re bill is over $41,000 and you’re required to pay the difference from the $15,000.”
I’m very high strung so I couldn’t help it when I screamed into the phone, “What! My surgery was very routine and I was out of there ahead of schedule!”
“Oh no, no,” Kelly insisted. “They had a few complications and it ran up your bill so you have to pay the difference.”
“What about the anesthesiologist? You said that was included and now they are billing me.”
“No, I never said it was included,” she denied. “That’s a separate issue and you need to work something out with them. Right now, I’m concerned with the other $26,000 you owe us here at the hospital.”
“My doctor came in and told me it was very routine, the easiest one he’s ever done and even said I was ahead of schedule.” I was livid, to say the least. I went on to say, “I’m guessing lying is second nature to you but I’ll fix that. I am going to call him right now, tell him what you’ve said to me, give him your name, and let him call your administrator and work this out.”
I was so angry, I waited to call the doctor for fear I would have misguided anger toward him. In the end, I didn’t call him at all and I never heard from Kelly again nor did I ever receive another bill from the hospital.
As for the anesthesiologist: they continued to ask me for money and I never paid them a dime. Finally, after almost two years of their calls and statements, I finally explained to them what happened and what I was told by the hospital, not once, not twice, but three times, and even gave them Kelly’s full name. I haven’t heard from them since, either.