Category Archives: HCA

My Annual Healthcare Rant

It’s time for me to get my annual mammogram at the for-profit HCA/Centennial, which means it’s time for my annual rant about our for-profit healthcare system. I blogged about my experience last year, in which I was offered an opportunity to pay for the service out of pocket upfront, at no discernible benefit to me because it’s all going to be paid by my insurance anyway.

So this year I got the same “give me my money” phone call, which they laughably call “pre-registration.” I give them my name and address and other contact info (which they already have because it’s in their system) and then I get the rigamarole about how much the service will cost — this time she’s clear to say it’s “because my insurance hasn’t been verified.” Last year, they just told me the service would be $150. So I’m glad they’re at least clarifying the insurance angle. But still, I’m supposed to do what, exactly, with this information? Start selling off the family heirlooms? I have insurance, mammograms are covered, now go away, please.

And then 24 hours later I get yet another phone call from the same person who “pre-registered” me yesterday, to say my insurance has been verified. Which you’d think would be good news, but in HCA Land, it’s actually another opportunity for them to try to get my money. For a 20% discount, I can pay now! Yes, that’s actually the deal I was offered. I can pay for the service at 20% off now, or I can do nothing and my insurance company will pay the full price (repriced, but whatevs). I mean, my insurance pays 100%.

I mean, seriously, people? WTF? Why not just lower your prices 20% and then we can all reap the reward of lower insurance premiums?

I cannot believe this is going on.

Mr. Beale is furious. He wants to know, if I do pay now at the 20% discount, and then BlueCross/BlueShield remimburses at 100%, who gets that extra 20%? HCA?

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Filed under HCA, health insurance, healthcare, Nashville

Is This A New Healthcare Scam Or What?

As you may recall, I recently went for my annual mammogram, which was quite an adventure. But now, dear friends, the adventure continues!

We’ve got really good insurance from BlueCross/BlueShield, so my annual exams of this type have always been covered 100%. But this time, for the first time ever, the hospital’s billing office called me prior to my appointment to “pre-check me in,” and also to let me know the cost would be “around $150.” I let them know my insurance has always paid for this in full and asked if they were sure about the charge? The woman on the phone sounded unconcerned, like this is something they routinely tell people without checking what their insurance plans call for, just a heads’ up of what they might need to expect. Or not, as the case may be.

I found that totally weird. If I hadn’t been doing this every year for a while and knew I was never charged, I might be a little freaked out. I’d especially be panicked if $150 was a make-or-break amount of money for my monthly budget, which it easily can be for a lot of folks. Especially the kinds of people not accustomed to shelling out large amounts of money on regular health services like mammograms. For example, people new to the healthcare market, thanks to Obamacare. Just sayin’.

As it happens, I get my mammogram and there’s no charge, as usual. The office said they’d file with insurance, as usual.

So imagine my surprise when about 4 days later I get a bill from the hospital! Again: this has never happened before! I assumed it was a bill I could ignore because BlueCross/BlueShield typically takes months to process claims. But the bill showed a discounted amount of around $143, and I’d had that phone call saying I should expect to pay around $150 … so I was a little confused. Again: if I hadn’t done this before and known not to be worried, I’d be in a panic.

So I called the hospital’s billing office and asked WTF is this thing I got in the mail. And get this: she says, “Oh, we just send that out in case you want to pay it. You don’t have to, but if you want to.”

Whaaaa…???

I asked her to clarify what she meant. “You mean, pay it and then have you pay me back when the insurance company pays?” Yes. That is what she meant. If I wanted to. But I didn’t have to.

People, I ask you: who the fuck would want to do that?

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that this service was performed at the for-profit HCA (now TriStar) hospital in Nashville, Centennial. And I just have to wonder again if this isn’t some kind of scam they’re running trying to get money out of people who are new to dealing with hospital billing departments and insurance, now that ObamaCare has brought thousands of newbies into the system.

It just seems a little sleazy to me. I absolutely would not be surprised to learn that staff at Centennial are given a bonus for every “early payment” they coerce out of patients.

Meanwhile, BlueCross/BlueShield has started sending me a stupid newsletter it calls “Healthy Options,” filled with recipes and coupons for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, Minute Maid Light Lemonade and other crap made out of toxic waste I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork. I don’t know when my health insurance company got into bed with ConAgra, ADM and the rest of our Big Food Overlords but I find this an ominous sign and I’m pretty sure it can’t be good for anyone. I just really don’t want to be marketed to by these people. Seems like there might be something better to do with that money.

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Filed under HCA, health insurance, healthcare, Nashville

Your For Profit Healthcare System At Work

I don’t know why this letter I got from HCA/Tri-Star Health Systems pissed me off so much but it did. It’s a sales pitch for various surgical procedures for obesity, and it came addressed to me (though the salutation is to “Friend”).

You know what? I don’t want to get sales pitches from the local for-profit hospital chain selling me some sketchy obesity surgery. And speaking of fat, I suspect Tri-Star is getting fat off the bloated insurance premiums we pay every month, which is why they can pay to send out mass mailings like this and offer a

FREE bariatric surgery seminar where you will meet with a bariatric surgeon, hear about other patients’ experiences with bariatric surgery and receive an information packet ….

What is this, a hospital or a timeshare?

I don’t suppose we’ll be hearing from too many of these folks, will we?

Maybe what bothers me is this:

Because insurers are increasingly willing to cover weight-loss surgery, hospitals here see it as a growing profit center.

They are mounting marketing campaigns and competing to sign up top weight-loss surgeons.

“There’s a high reimbursement rate for these procedures,” says Bob Benowitz, a Manhattan lawyer whose clients include many local hospitals and physicians.

Nationally, insurers paid hospitals an average of more than $10,000 for the two most popular of the procedures: gastric bypass and gastric banding. Christine Ren, a bariatric surgeon at New York University Medical Center, says some companies pay as much as $14,000.

That story is from 2007. I’m betting those numbers are much higher now. And I’m betting HCA/Tri-Star is cashing in on this profit center, just as the New York hospitals mentioned in the article did. After all, we have no shortage of obese people here in Tennessee.

I find this immoral. The entire idea that there’s a profit motive attached to healthcare is repugnant. No one should get rich off of someone’s healthcare needs. I place most of the diet industry on a par with snake oil salesmen, peddling quick-fixes like diet cookies and powders and shakes. And now HCA/Tri-Star puts itself in the same camp as the hucksters hawking a lemonade-maple-syrup-cayenne-pepper diet.

Read the letter here:

If We're Such Good Friends How Come You Don't Know I'm Not Fat?

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Filed under advertising, HCA, health insurance, healthcare

This Year’s Karen Ryan?

Pity these poor British citizens, naive to the ways of American corporate astroturfing! They got duped by Rick Scott’s Conservatives for Patients’ Rights into appearing in an anti-healthcare reform advertisement:

Two British women who have become the unwitting stars of a campaign to derail Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms yesterday said that their views on the NHS had been misrepresented.

[…]

Ms Spall, whose mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment, and Ms Brickell, who had cervical cancer diagnosed after being refused a smear test because she was too young, appear in the adverts telling how they were failed by the NHS.

But they informed The Times that they were told they were being interviewed for a documentary examining healthcare reform. Neither was aware that the footage was to be used for right-wing advertisements. Ms Spall said: “It has been a bit of a nightmare. It was a real test of my naivety. I am a very trusting person and for me it has been a big lesson. I feel I was duped.”

Here’s a thought: if you have to lie and misrepresent who you are to get British citizens to trash their National Health Service on camera, perhaps their system really ain’t so bad. But I digress.

Here’s where it gets weird:

CPR was set up by Richard Scott, a multimillionaire who founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation. Ms Spall was approached by a woman, who identified herself as Betsy Kulman, who said that she was making a documentary for the company. In an e-mail Ms Kulman wrote: “Columbia Healthcare in the US is underwriting a web documentary spanning the US, the UK, and Canada on the debate on healthcare reform. This segment will explore the difficult issues around the intersection between private and nationalised medicine.

“Who has been failed by socialised medicine and why? What can be done to change things for the better”

Oh, my.

For one thing, there is no company called “Columbia Healthcare.” That company has been HCA ever since Rick Scott was ousted after his company defrauded taxpayers and gave doctors kickbacks.

You know, the kind of rapacious behavior a for-profit healthcare system just begs for. The irony of this assclown becoming the voice of healthcare reform should be lost on no one.

[Unrelated fun fact: in the early ‘90s, Rick Scott was George W. Bush’s partner in the Texas Rangers. The Republican Party is nothing if not incestuous.]

Here’s another odd thing: A British blogger named Gordon Cooper, whose wife has breast cancer, has been chronicling his family’s ordeal on his blog. And in January of this year Betsy Kulman left the following comment on his blog:

Hello Gordon,

My name is Betsy Kulman, and I am a journalist in the US. I’m so sorry about what your wife (and you) are going through with her cancer. I am sure this is a very scary time.


I am working (urgently) on a web documentary on privatized vs socialized medicine, which will include the US, Canada, and the NHS in the UK. What are the pros and the cons of each…as the US moves toward more nationalized care.


It seems you have you been somewhat dissatisfied with some of the care your wife is receiving… and I would like to talk to you further if you think that is due the NHS or just bad record keeping etc… Are you and your wife interested in sharing any information? Ultimately I want to find someone to interview/profile on camera (to shoot in mid-February) for this web story being underwritten by Columbia Healthcare in the US. If you all want to talk about this, my email is betsykulman@yahoo.com. I am on a crazy short deadline so please let me know… I would be very interested in your viewpoint and thank you both so much for even considering helping us at this juncture, considering all you have on your plate. I appreciate it and do hope I will hear from you.


Many thanks, Betsy

January 31, 2009 9:45 PM

Interesting. President Obama had barely taken his oath of office and they were already collecting footage and horror stories from across the pond to trash “nationalized care”?

Who is Betsy Kulman, anyway? She identifies herself as a journalist, and there is indeed an award-winning field producer named Betsy Kulman who has worked for CNN, ABC, Fox and others. I also found a Betsy Kulman–a Vanderbilt University graduate, no less–who is owner of BK Productions, a media firm in Washington, D.C.

Are they the same person? If so, field producer Kulman can kiss her award-winning news career goodbye now that she’s working for a lobbyist and misrepresenting herself to overseas sources. “Karen Ryan, reporting” anyone?

The other question I have is, what is HCA’s financial relationship to Rick Scott’s Conservatives For Patients’ Rights group? In January Ms. Kulman was telling people that her “web documentary” was being underwritten by “Columbia Healthcare.” Conservatives For Patients’ Rights opened its doors in February–and it turns out her “documentary” is in fact no more than advertisements against healthcare reform. So I guess we can surmise that HCA is underwriting the anti-reform activities of Conservatives For Patients Rights, which makes sense since Rick Scott used to be head of the company.

This is good to know. HCA is a for-profit hospital chain. The company paid $1.7 billion to settle the government’s fraud claim, the largest healthcare fraud case in U.S. history.

Vendetta, much?

This is who is fighting healthcare reform, misrepresenting themselves to people in the United Kingom as “journalists” working on a “web documentary,” and trying to stop moves to reform our broken system.

Betsy Kulman the journalist has an impressive resume. But if this is the same person who has been shilling for Conservatives For Patients’ Rights, it’s going to discredit any future work she may do for the networks.

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Filed under Conservatives For Patients Rights, HCA, healthcare