Let’s keep the “OUCH” out of medical bills!  (by Ryan Clark)

Introduction

Ryan1I am a pre-nursing student who is extremely interested in the care of other people and has been volunteering at OHSU. I have many, many pleasant experiences with hospital staff, but far too many unpleasant experiences with the outcome of the bills after a visit. High costs in medical bills tends to drive away a lot people from the hospital or from doing any kind of surgeries that would benefit their health. If the cost of the bill itself doesn’t drive them away, it sure does add an extra amount of stress and frustration to their plate. All this leads me to ask the question how can we avoid the surprisingly large amounts of our medical bills?

Public Writing

How can we avoid the surprisingly large amounts of our medical bills?

Whether you are getting prepped for a surgery or just wondering whether or not you should even go to the ER, the last thing that should be on your mind while dealing with those stresses is how much it is going to cost. The fear of not knowing can add a level of discomfort and frustration to patients that they don’t need to be dealing with. There needs to be a more comfortable way then the current way your hospitals and physicians bill you.

Many people share the same experience, they get a symptom, go to the ER, leave maybe an hour later knowing that they are alright, but then receiving a huge bill that seems to outweigh the service they received. There was an article published in the Blade newspaper, in Toledo, Ohio, that gives a couple examples of different people that went to the hospital with just a tooth ache and then billed $2,073, and another that went to the ER with bronchitis, saw the doctor for under 15 minutes, and was charged $1,155. Maybe not everyone feels the same, but I know most people would think those are outrageous amounts for two different small cases.

There are ways to at least ease the pain of that first sight of your bill. A way to keep costs down according to “Nursing Economic$” is by using physician assistants and nurse practitioners to visit patients instead of only specialists and doctors. The article, “Modifying State Laws For Nurse Practitioners And Physician Assistants Can Reduce Cost Of Medical Services,” says, “NPs provide equal quality of care at a lower cost compared to primary care physicians (PCPs).” This may not be an overall solution to the issue of high priced bills, but it could be extremely helpful to everyone by just lowering costs some. In the state of Maine there are a couple new laws that require hospitals to give patients information on how much their bill might be if asked for it. Because of this a lot of people are now able to “shop around” for their care providers versus going into the nearest hospital only hoping their bill isn’t too terribly expensive. I think this should be implemented nationwide. Almost any other expense you have you know going in what you are expected to pay. Why can’t hospitals and clinics be the same way?

 A Look at the Research

Source 1

Marleneharris-Taylor. “Expensive ER fees perplex, exasperate unknowing patients.” Blade, The (OH) 24 May 2015: Newspaper Source. Web. 28 May 2015.

<http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.pcc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=6840034e-8bd3-4ac8-a3d1-ab1146be209c%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=nfh&AN=2W63762569933>

The article “Expensive ER fees perplex, exasperate unknowing patients” is a current piece from the newspaper Blade in Toledo, Ohio. This article is describing a few different patients stories of their visits to the emergency room and how surprisingly high the cost was. This piece is authoritative because it they are true stories from real people about their challenges with the extremely high medical costs. The article also relates to where my research question stemmed from, how confusing medical billing is to patients, and how little we know about it.

Source2

Farwell, Jackie. “How much, Doc? New laws aim to help Maine consumers understand medical bills.” Bangor Daily News (ME) 31 July 2014: Newspaper Source. Web. 28 May 2015.

<http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.pcc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=6840034e-8bd3-4ac8-a3d1-ab1146be209c%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=nfh&AN=2W6823061014>

“How much, Doc?” is a newspaper article from Maine. Throughout the text it refers to the confusion patients have on how much their medical bills are going to cost and then ways to make it a little less complicated. There are new regulations in Maine that require hospitals and surgical centers to have the costs available to patients if they ask for it beforehand. The information in this article falls under my research question because it explains one way of making the billing process for patients less stressful. The authority in this work comes from the laws themselves.

Source 3

Hooker, Roderick S., and Ashley N. Muchow. “Modifying State Laws For Nurse Practitioners And Physician Assistants Can Reduce Cost Of Medical Services.” Nursing Economic$ 33.2 (2015): 88-94. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 28 May 2015.

<http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.pcc.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=3b54cf7f-1829-4cd9-9b06-f1be0d5ceab4%40sessionmgr4004&vid=11&hid=4204>

In the article “Modifying State Laws for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Can Reduce Cost of Medical Services” it talks about how if NPs and PAs are utilized more than they are at the given time, it could cut costs of medical services down instead of just relying on physicians and medical specialists. This article’s authority comes from its academic research and it was found in the PCC library which is a credible source. The work in this article relates back to my research question because it is giving an alternative to the way we do things now. The article is describing a way we can bring down costs for everyone in a non-complicated manner.

How to get involved

In the medical field there are so many ways that you can get involved. A lot of people might stray away because when they think of a hospital all they can picture is blood and surgeries, stuff that would make them uncomfortable. The thing is, in any hospital there are so many other things you can do, for example simply filing paperwork for nurses or wheel chair rides for patients. Any little activity that a volunteer does is a load off someone else either working really hard in the hospital or working on recovering, plus it fills you with such a joy to know you are making someone’s day better. I would highly suggest volunteering even just a few hours at your local hospital.

Here are a few links to local hospitals in the Portland Metro area:

http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/how-you-can-help/volunteer/index.cfm

https://www.providencehospitals.com/about/volunteer/

If you don’t live in the area and want to find a hospital local to you check out this link!

http://www.medicalreservecorps.gov/volunteerFldr/AboutVolunteering

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2 comments

  1. N.B.

    While the information is clearly and logically presented, I’m struck by the exclusion of a personal narrative. This work reads more like a “wikihow” of reducing medical costs, rather than an introspective or expository missive that highlights the strength of the writer’s voice and experiences.

    For the future, I’d recommend incorporating the sources in a way that indicates the author’s personal analysis (as was done in the paragraph about medical bills in Toledo). It’s not necessarily necessary to explain your sources in the citation if one has already expanded upon them in the initial text.

    Overall, the subject was of interest (indeed it’d be pertinent to many) and the information was easily understood and accessible. I really enjoyed the attention to offering ways to get involved (something I personally neglected in my paper). It is unfortunate this is the end of the term; I would’ve loved to learn more and watch how the author evolved. Much fortune to you on your academic journeys!

    -N.B.

  2. Yanwen Wang

    Ryan,
    Thanks for sharing such an important topic and it relates to everyone ! A friend of mine recently received a big medical bill from visiting ER. I think this piece of work is easy to read, and easy to understand. I appreciate the suggestions your described in your public writing, and I wonder if all of them can be applied to all the hospitals or medical centers. Because under the emergency circumstance, few people would really shop around for best price (I would freak out if my family or myself got emergency).

    One thing i didn’t expect is the :How to get involved part , I thought you were going to tell the readers how to get involved in the process of helping reducing the cost of medical services or pushing the new regulations that require hospitals and surgical centers have the costs available to patients if they ask for it beforehand. I think this may interest me more. Overall, It is such a nice piece with everything a public writing asks for. I think the cost of many surgeries or ER visits should be visible before the patients receive the care. It is not a big matter for the hospitals but it is, for many patients.

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