Matters Scatalogical

A couple of years ago I was in Washington DC visiting friends. We had a merry enough time at first but then things took a turn – or rather I did.

I developed a griping pain in the stomach which, because I am a man, was agonising. I retreated to the loo where dark things happened that must never be spoken of. After a couple of days of my not being able to eat, my host drove me to Sibley Memorial Hospital whilst my wife held my hand and tried to stop me fading away.

The hospital was quiet and clean and, with a single exception, stunningly efficient. The exception was that, having been asked for and having delivered a “stool sample” they managed to lose it on its way to be tested. Goodness knows how you lose a cardboard tray of poo. Goodness knows what became of the person who eventually found it. Anyway, since there was plenty more where that came from it wasn’t really a problem.

Exceptionally cheerful nurses launched a sustained vampirous attack, siphoning off blood and returning (and this never happens in the UK) within the hour with a full set of results which I was allowed to keep. I have them on display in my home.

Anyone who has visited a British ER will appreciate the difference. I once managed to nearly hack off a finger getting out of the bath (it’s a long story) and was only permitted to talk to triage when the cleaners complained that my profuse bleeding was making the floors sticky.

The other difference I noticed a month later when a bill for $1078 arrived. I made a half-hearted attempt to get my UK insurers to pay but they just laughed at me down the phone. “Have you never read your policy?” they asked cackling like witches. It turned out that poor attention to detail on my part had meant that I had signed up to a policy that, boiling matters down to their essentials, required me to pay them money if I incurred medical expenses. I paid the hospital and abandoned my insurance claim.

Today I got a letter from a company called NCO Financial Systems Inc. It was two and a half pages of intemperate threats coupled with an invitation to call them and make payment immediately. They had acquired a “debt” from NES District of Columbia which, Google informed me, was the DC Emergency Health Service.

Several long phone calls to very charming people later it emerged that in addition to the $609 ER charge that had appeared on the original bill, I had been billed a further $241 by the ER Doctor herself (although that bill had never reached me). So the grand total (including payment charges) is $1327. That must surely be the most expensive shit anyone has had in all recorded human history.

Just to underscore the point: if I were to turn up with diarrhoea at a London hospital they would poke through my stool sample for nothing. That’s no pounds and no pence. Admittedly, they would take days and probably surgically remove my leg by accident once I had nodded off in the waiting room, but $1327 would leave me enough money to get a gold-tipped crutch and a physiotherapy massage from the Queen. I am amazed so many Americans are still alive. What is the break even point? How close to death do you have to be to make it worthwhile actually setting foot in a hospital?

On the subject of poo – this is one of the funniest things I have read in ages.

12 thoughts on “Matters Scatalogical”

  1. Wow, that is a whole lot of money. Esspecially as it was you who were providing something for them, surely they should be paying? 😉

  2. It’s probably fair to point out that, of course, most Americans wouldn’t get a bill for $1300 after visiting a hospital and leaving some poo behind. They would have paid about that much per month already in premiums so that they could guarantee the hospital would look at their poo. Of course, this doesn’t apply to poor Americans, who can’t afford for anyone at all to look at their poo. In Canada, all hospitals are required by law to look at our poo free of charge, but we may have to wait 18 months for them to do so. I just love typing the word ‘poo’.

  3. Wow, you’ve received great service. Usually it’s at least an hour. In fact, there’s a hospital who advertises only a 30 minute wait to see a doc at the ER. Lots of people would rather drive 20 mins there than wait hours in the lobby of the ER.

    I burned myself (gas stove incident) and had 3rd degree burns. I waited 3 hours to even be seen – with bubbling, bleeding blisters right there.

  4. You are fine here if you have insurance through your job, then medical treatment is ostensibly ‘free’, other than that if you have to take out your own health insurance you have to pay through the nose for every procedure and I know people who are constantly making decisions like, “my tooth is gushing pus but should I wait until it falls out on its own because the extractions gonna cost me $500?”

    $1327 for shit…hope it was good shit!!

  5. Amy – that makes the credit crunch all the more frightening

    Pete -do you think I should demand the re-aptriate my unused sample?

    BN -makes yer proud to be British doesn’t it. As our Blessed Leader might say: British Bogs for British Workers

    Medio – is that a dream or a nightmare and are we talking notes or coins here?

    Kate – Canada: America only nicer

    Fluts – My ass is in a sling

    Claudia – We British really love a good wait. I think we may insist on it as a form of calming therapy

    Emma – The very finest. Approved as organic by the soil association.

  6. Yes, that sounds very wise. I mean – there is a danger it will be buried in exorbitently expensive soil and you’ll be billed for that too.

  7. Did the intemperate threats include ‘concrete boots’ and the like?

    I worked in Malaysia many moons ago. When I left, I sold my little Ford Escort to another member of the High Commission staff, left the country, then left the FCO and buggered off to America. I later rejoined the FCO (long story) and after a couple of years, enormous parking fines started filtering their way back to me via the diplomatic bag system. My old car, from 5 years before, was clearly being parked all over Kuala Lumpur and the current owner wasn’t paying – over there, the first bill was about 10 bucks, after that it went up logarithmically – by the time the fines were getting back to me, they were in the thousands.
    Turned out that although I had filled all the requisite forms, the local bods had failed to log the change of ownership at least 4 times and the bloody car was still registered to me.
    I’m never going back to Malaysia …..

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