I recently got bit by a cat. Over the course of the day, I watched as a fast-paced infection set in – my entire hand becoming extremely painful by early evening. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my healthy lifestyle that I got to be 57 years old and never learned the difference between an E. R. and an Urgent Care. I thought they were the same thing. So, I naively walked into the E. R. at the old Sacred Heart Hospital at 13th & Hilyard.
After checking in with the receptionist (who made no effort to direct me to the Urgent Care one block away) , I was escorted to an examination room. After a few minutes, not a doctor, but a nurse practitioner arrived. She looked at my hand and wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and I walked away. No X-rays were taken, no blood drawn, no tests performed. I was in the room with her for five or ten minutes.
Some time later I was shocked to receive a bill from PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center for $624. A short time later I received a bill from Eugene Emergency Physicians for $194. This brought the total for my five or ten minute brush with the US health care industry to $818. I do have insurance, but in an effort to keep it affordable, I have $5000 deductible.
I try to wrap my mind around how they arrived at this figure:
Let’s just say, for argument’s sake that I was with an actual doctor for one hour. And let’s say that doctors need to earn $800 dollars per day. So that’s $100 just for the doctor’s time.
Even though the Sacred Heart building at 13th & Hilyard is decades old and presumably paid off, let’s say that Sacred Heart does have its overhead costs and needs to bill for twice the amount charged by the doctor. So, that’s $200 to Sacred Heart.
Let’s say the five minutes that I was with the receptionist is worth $50 and the person who spent two minutes taking me to the examination room is also good for $50.
Given that my treatment lasted five or ten minutes and I never even spoke to an actual physician, I’m clearly being lavishly generous with the above numbers