Yesterday, after I had been examined, given a prescription for pain, advised on how to treat my broken rib and released to go home, I spent some time waiting for my ride home in the waiting room for emergency care at Baylor Hospital. While I was there, an older woman came in with what appeared to be a broken nose. She approached the nurse doing triage and said something. The nurse first replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you.” Then after another try, “I’m a nurse. I don’t know anything about the billing practices.”
The women then took a seat a couple away from me. In a few minutes an older man came in and sat next to her. I would guess it was her husband returning from parking their car. They spoke for a few seconds, and then he approached the nurse. I have to assume that the nurse could better understand him (it’s hard to speak clearly with a broken nose); because the nurse replied to him, “I’m the nurse. I don’t know about billing. I don’t know if Medicare will pay for a second emergency room visit in the same day.”
The old man returned to his seat next to the older woman. They bent their heads together and conferred quietly for a few minutes. Then they rose slowly and shuffled back outside, into the rain.
I can only assume that they decided it was better for the women to deal with her pain on her own, rather than to risk incurring a hospital bill they couldn’t afford.