On March 16 I cut open my forehead and needed 16 stitches. When it was all said and done I had been charged $6,070.45.
I’m not going to name the walk-in clinic that provided my services. Suffice it to say it’s one of those located along a major thoroughfare in Mission and whose large electronic sign advertises 24-hour service. What they don’t tell you is they will charge you $45 extra for showing up between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
On my first visit I was weighed, had my temperature and blood pressure taken, the latter with a disposable armband. After a physician’s assistant cleaned my wound the doctor injected a local anesthetic around it and used 16 stitches to close it. The entire procedure took about 15 minutes. A large bandage was put over the wound. I was told to return in four days to have the stitches removed.
Before leaving the clinic I paid it $1,195.60 and was told that was just the clinic’s bill. I would be charged separately by the partnership that employed the doctor. I was given prescriptions for a topical ointment to apply on the wound and antibiotics for a week, both to prevent infection.
When I returned four days later to have the stitches removed I again was weighed and had my temperature and blood pressure taken, again with a disposable pressure band. The doctor, an Asian man with a Southern drawl, leaned over me for a moment looking at my forehead and said it was not healed and to come back in another four days.
For the second visit I paid the clinic $374.40. The doctor’s charge was $291. I was there ten minutes.
A few weeks later I received the doctor’s bill for the tetanus shot, local anesthetic and 16 stitches: $2,085.
To my surprise I also received another bill from the clinic, this one for another $1,992.20. On it were listed additional treatment charges, among them was a $13 charge for antibiotics, which I thought was curious since I had not been given an antibiotic and had spent $4 at Wal-Mart for a week’s worth of antibiotic pills and another $61.95 for the topical ointment. It also showed a $202 charge for a “3MIMIMUNZATION ADM-1 VACCINE,” which I found curious because I had received only one injection for the tetanus shot and it was listed on the bill separately as having cost $218.
The remainder of the charges listed my stitches, which I also found curious because they had been administered by the doctor who had also charged for them.
Did I attempt to contact the clinic to clear up the charges? No. It doesn’t matter because I am not going to pay them any more than the $1,570 I’ve already paid. As for the doctor’s partnership I sent them a check for $500.
Maybe I’m living in the past thinking $6,000 is an excessive amount for 16 stitches. But I can’t help but think about the Phoenix doctor I helped prosecute while a paralegal in the Homicide Bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. One of our defendants was a cosmetic surgeon who killed three of his patients because he did not have an anesthesiologist on staff to monitor the patients who he had anesthetized in order to perform liposuction in his office. His license to perform surgery was suspended after the second death whereby he enlisted the services of a holistic doctor to perform the liposuctions under his supervision. After his third patient died in his office and he was subsequently charged and convicted of murder, a letter the doctor had written to himself was found among the documents seized from his office. In it he had pledged to himself to become a millionaire by the time he was 30.
I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the mentality of many doctors and the partnerships that hire them in today’s world. It also makes me wonder if we are not mandated to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act just so we can continue to enable the greed of doctors and those that orbit their practices. I for one am not a ready enabler. In fact this experience causes me to recall what Thomas Jefferson said about unjust laws: “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
Well let me apply that to medical costs: If a medical charge is unjust, a man is not only right not to pay it, he is obligated not to.
I did not return a third time to the clinic. I purchased a pair of cuticle scissors and removed the stitches myself for less than six bucks.