About a decade or so ago, it was not uncommon to walk into a doctor’s office or hospital for the purpose of receiving treatment, to receive that treatment, and then, receive the billing statement a few months later (sometimes even six months later). Today, times have definitely changed. An individual cannot walk into an office or go into the emergency room without observing the sign: “Payment is due at the time of service.”

I remember shortly after my marriage to my husband, we each went in for routine eye exams. Upon finishing my husband’s exam, the optometrist called me to inform me that we needed to head to the hospital immediately. We were told, then, that my husband was thought to have a tumor of some sort above his right eye. Of course, scared about the results and unexpected discovery, we headed straight to the radiology department of the hospital.

There, we were informed that before my husband could go back for his MRI, that the hospital needed the $1,000 deposit (based on our insurance). At that time, I was a junior in college and my husband a sophomore. We lived in a tiny townhouse / apartment with penny-paying jobs. We scraped by and made enough just to pay our few bills. I remember I looked at the receptionist like she was speaking a foreign language. I questioned if we could be billed at a later time, as we had just left the office of the optometrist, where we found out this information. She confirmed that without the payment, we could not have the service done. My husband needed to be seen and we did not have the cash to back that up. As a result, I took out my plastic and handed it over to the girl.

Since that time, this policy has become pretty much a national standard across the board. Doctor’s offices have patients’ insurance information prior to the first appointment and let individuals know before they show up, what their portions will be (even after the insurance pays). Typically, offices are organized in such a manner that individuals receive billing statements within a matter of weeks.

I can definitely attest to this. Referring back to my initial marriage, not quite a decade ago, I would always receive bills within a matter of several months. Even with the birth of my first son, who is five and a half years old, this was true. However, with my second son, who is barely three years old, we received all of the hospital bills within two weeks, but most came within one week.

Our society thrives on constant changing and improving electronics. We demand faster, better, more capable technology. No longer is 2 GB enough memory. We need 10. We need faster frames per second for our digital cameras. We want faster transmittal of information for our Internet.

Although, this technology brings about great conveniences, there is a price. Especially, in the healthcare world, individuals must prepare. Yes, this technology acts as a great asset to doctors, nurses, and all medical personnel, as they secure their pay; however, in some ways, it feeds on the misfortunate, unprepared, and ailed souls.

While some have the means to pay for these services and receive the care they need, others are not so fortunate, and struggle with these new standards. What is the answer? I’m not sure there really is a solution to the medical needs of this nation. However, those that can should prepare in every way for the rainy days ahead. You never know when you might be that individual needing emergency services.

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