Sam Bauman: Critical moments on going to hospital



There are two important events when seniors go to the hospital. One is getting there, via friends or relatives or by 911 ambulance service. The other comes weeks later in the mail.

Readers may remember the column I wrote about my three-day stay at the Carson Tahoe facility for stomach flu. There’s a long “gastro” something name for it, but never mind.

I recounted two nights in a closet-sized emergency room, fully clothed wondering what was going on, and then my one night in an actual patient room — luxury with great views, a TV I could control and a bath that was a pure luxury event.

The second event was the arrival of the bill for three nights.

Now, we all know hospitals have a laundry list of set fees for everything they do. As a result, the fee for one aspirin is likely to be the cost of a pack of aspirins or perhaps $5. And so on. Looking at my bill for a three-day stay is enlightening.

First off was $3,898 for room and bed. That seemed high considering I spent two nights in a plastic-curtained closet. But there was a bed, so I guess it was legit.

Next item was $2,090.50 for pharmacy. No way to dispute that — they probably pumped who knows and how much into me. Then there is $402.70 for pharmacy IV solutions. Yep, needles in the arms.

Next, supplies/non-sterile, $1,004.

Then laboratory, $102, chemistry, $704, hematology, $424, bacteriology and microbiology, $322. Who can complain?

Urology, $359, chest X-ray, $35, finally, something I could afford.

Respiratory services, $424 and $462, physical therapy, $328. Physical therapy/evaluation or reevaluation, $461, OT/evaluation or reevaluation, $4,159, pulmonary function, $60, pharmacy/detailed drugs, $159,30, pharmacy/self-administered, $77.10,

And toss in an EKG for $236 and cardiology/other for free!

It all adds up to $11,547.60. That’s without the usual push and pull between the hospital and the insurer.

This is not a criticism of the hospital. It has to bill to be able to function, and while the bill seems high for three days, the hospital had to be ready to do all these things and more.

Other than the two nights in a plastic curtained cubical, the three days were not a joy but what had to be lived. And I’m still doing it. Now, if they could only do something for my aching back — their therapy didn’t help there.

Incidentally, you probably could get the hospital to go over some of the murky categories for a breakdown, but that would mean assembling all kinds of charts and entries to find out the specifies of such as “pharmacy.” Probably no benefit to you.

So $11,647.60 for three not-very-pleasant days and nights. Never got to thank any of the medical team or enjoy the beautiful hospital, but I sure admired staying that one night in a real patient’s room.

A few days after receiving the above bill, I got another letter from Carson Tahoe. This was an updated version of my bill after Medicare chipped in. This was for $1,288.00, quite a reduction.

Along with this new bill was a letter advising me that to handle all the financial details, the hospital has teamed with First Party Receivables Solution to handle all the payment details.

OK, so I’ve got to tie up wit FPRS and go from there. Well, $1,288 is less than 11,000, so I guess I’m ready to clear things up.


Most seniors have heard of sciatica — we back pain and radiating leg pain. You’ve had back pain for some time, but now you’re having leg pain and pins and needles through your buttocks and down your leg.

Your doctor warns this might be sciatica. Sciatica comes from pressure on the nerve roots that come from the spinal cord.

There are many conditions that cause sciatica. Symptoms include deep, aching pain that radiates former lower back, down through your buttocks to the lower leg. Also a burning sensation, stabbing or tingling sensation felt all the way down the leg. Or muscle weakness, numbing or difficulty moving a leg or foot,

Even without treatment sciatic symptoms go away or greatly improve in about one to three months. Early treatment is controlling the pain and discomfort.

Early on nonprescription pain relievers may be tried. Also modified activity, stay active with maybe a day or two of rest.

Physical therapy can help you regain normal back activity. Stretching exercises can help. Here are some simple exercises that can help:

Standing with hands on hips, lean back for 5-10 seconds

Laying on the back, lift a knee and grab it with your hands; hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as long as it helps

Lay flat on the stomach with arms at the side for as long as comfortable

On your stomach, raise the chest for up to five minutes or as long as it can be tolerated

Same position, lift upper body high and hold for five to 10 second and do 10 reps

This sciatic information comes from the Mayo Clinic Health Letter of March 2016.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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