Taking A Knee To The Wallet

, , , , | Healthy | June 11, 2018

(I work for a Spanish company in Madrid. The company’s CFO and I fly to New York for ten days for several business meetings. After arriving in New York, I trip and injure my knee. As we have the first business meeting that afternoon, I just bite through the pain, and go to the meeting. After the meeting, in conversation with my CFO:)

CFO: “[My Name], is your knee still hurting? You were awfully quiet the entire meeting.”

Me: “Yep, still hurts. I’ll put some ice on it when we get to the hotel after dinner to see if it helps.”

(The next morning my knee still hurts, and now it’s swollen. My CFO insists that I go to the hospital, and takes me to the emergency room. I am seen in less than half an hour by a doctor.)

Doctor: “So, what’s wrong?”

Me: “I tripped yesterday and hurt my knee. I had ice on it the entire evening, but it didn’t get better. It’s slightly swollen.”

Doctor: “All right, and does it hurt?”

Me: “Yes, it does.”

Doctor: “Okay. Let’s take an x-ray, and I’ll give you some medicine for the pain.”

(The x-ray is taken. I receive my medicine and wait for the doctor to come see me again.)

Doctor: “All right, it seems you did fall pretty bad. You did some serious damage to your knee, and will definitely need surgery, sooner rather than later. We can do it here if you’d like.”

(As my CFO is there with me, I quickly speak to him.)

Me: “[CFO], I have no idea how much this is going to cost. I can pay this x-ray; however, I’m not sure about the surgery and hospital stay.”

CFO: “[My Name], don’t worry. It happened on a business trip; the company will pay for everything.”

Me: “Thank you! [Doctor], I’d like to do the surgery, then.”

Doctor: “Okay, perfect. I cannot do it today, but wait in the waiting room and I’ll send someone to tell you when we will be available within the next few days.”

(We both go and sit in the waiting room and wait for almost one hour, before someone in a suit shows up.)

Billing Guy: “Hello, my name is [Billing Guy], and I am from the billing department. Since you are a foreign citizen and have no insurance, we need to go over the costs first. First of all, I expedited the billing of your ER visit, and the x-ray and medicine you had costs [amount slightly under $1,300], which you have to pay before we can even think about scheduling the surgery. The surgery itself will require you to stay in the hospital for a while, and will be significantly more expensive. We cannot tell you how much it will be, as it varies; however, if you want to play it on the safe side you can expect something between $25,000 and $30,000.”

CFO: *suddenly awake* “Okay, the $1,300 I can pay right now. The surgery should not be a problem, as well; however, I need to call HQ to let them know.”

Billing Guy:Should? All right, I will have to speak to my boss. Leave me your contact details, go back to your hotel, and I will call you the latest tomorrow morning so we can work out the details.”

(Two days pass, with no word whatsoever. Suddenly, in the middle of our next meeting my CFO gets a call and excuses himself from the meeting. He’s gone for almost half an hour. When he comes back:)

CFO: “[My Name], they refused to do the surgery, as they couldn’t be sure we would pay. I told them we already paid the ER visit with no problems whatsoever, but it wasn’t enough for them. They said our company’s finance department could afterwards simply refuse to pay. I told him I was the CFO and would guarantee payment, but that wasn’t enough for them.”

Me: “Okay, I can work this way for another week, and I’ll just go to the hospital back in Madrid.”

CFO: “No, you can’t. I already called the airline; they changed both our flights. We fly back this evening, and [CEO] is on the phone with a doctor friend of his who works at [Public Hospital] to make sure they’re ready for you as soon as you arrive.”

Me: “And the meetings?”

CFO: “We’ll reschedule; don’t worry.”

(The next day we flew back home, and my wife met me at the airport and drove me to the hospital where they were waiting for me. They immediately took an x-ray, confirmed I indeed needed immediate surgery, and simply did it. Including fuel money, surgery, medicine, and hospital stay, it didn’t cost more than a lunch for two. I now appreciate our Public Health Care system; even though it sometimes is slow, it is either free or inexpensive. Kudos to you Americans for being able to live with that health care system of yours without insurance. I am not sure I would be able to do it.)

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