Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ER Greed--Profiting Off the Vulnerable

Note:  Please attend the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 25th, 10 a.m., 981 H St., Crescent City, to share your views and hear about the Joint Resolution on healthcare costs
The $2,054 ER Doctor Bill

Anyone treated at the Sutter Coast Hospital Emergency Room may find their doctor bill hurts more than their injury.  Pateints are being charged over $2,000 for visits described as lasting under 10 minutes.  The ER doctor bills are over 10 times the amount allowed by Blue Cross or Medicare, and do not include Sutter's charges, which are often an additional several thousand dollars.  Adding to the injury, the ER doctors are "out of network" for most local insurance plans, which means you must pay the outrageous charges until your separate, out of network deductible, is met. 
   
How did such profiteering come to Crescent City?  By way of an exclusive contract between Sutter Coast Hospital (a locally owned "non-profit" corporation) and EmCare Holdings, Inc. (a national "for-profit" corporation). 
   
EmCare would not be here if not for our local hospital Board of Directors, which approved the contract.  In fairness, the hospital Board may have been unaware of EmCare's conduct when Sutter Health recommended EmCare.  As a former hospital Board member, I know the deceptive ways of Sutter Health executives and attorneys.  In the Board room, Sutter's leaders would frequently plead poverty while neglecting to mention the $4 billion in the Sutter Health Treasury, or their own multimillion dollar salaries.  For example, Sutter Regional President Martin Brotman (the doctor/executive who convinced our hospital Board to give the hospital to Sutter Health for nothing in return), collected a tidy $4.2 million annual salary from Sutter Health.

I have many examples of Sutter Health's deception--more than 100 documents, collected during my years on the hospital Board, containing false statements by Sutter Health executives as they attempted to take hospital ownership and triple the charges on Medicare patients. During that time, Sutter Coast was operating illegally, without a CFO, so we as a Board had no one to turn to with our financial questions. Fortunately, our community saw through the deception, forcing Sutter Health executives like CEO Pat Fry (the six million dollar per year man) and Regional President Mike Cohill to set aside the decisions they had made for our community.

Whether or not the Sutter Coast Board knew of EmCare's ways, Sutter Health executives certainly did know.  Both hospital CEO Mitch Hanna and hospital administrator Carlos Priestly have acknowledged, during recorded public meetings, that they knew of EmCare's out of network billing status.  Unfortunately, the Sutter executives did not inform the ER patients about EmCare.  Patients learned when their bills arrived. 

The truth about EmCare is spreading.  This Tuesday, April 25th, the County Board of Supervisors will discuss a resolution addressing healthcare costs (see above).  Drafted by a committee of city and county elected officials, the Joint Resolution asks the Sutter Coast Board to terminate its contract with EmCare, in addition to releasing hospital meeting records and financial statements for public review.  Sutter Health and its affiliate "charitable" corporations operate in secret, rendering unverifiable their claims of providing charitable care.  Should not the privilege of tax exemption confer the obligation of public disclosure?

Supported by people of all ages, backgrounds, and political affiliations, our effort to end healthcare overcharges is working.  To share your ideas, receive this newsletter, or obtain a confidential review of your hospital bill, contact me at gregoryduncan1200@gmail.com or call (707) 465-1126

We don't have Sutter's advertising budget, attorneys, public relations teams, consultants, lobbyists, or billions in cash.  But we do have the truth.  I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Gregory J. Duncan, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Orthopedic Surgery

(Disclaimer: This article represents my views as a physician and not my roles as Chief of Surgery at Sutter Coast Hospital or Director of the Del Norte Healthcare District.)

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