Hey, class action attorneys, please be aware of a brewing scandal at UCLA – Harbor Medical Center. This is the state of modern medicine and a picture of ObamaCare if it passes all the way. Beware this future.
On September 4, 2011, Sandra felt pain and swelling that had been manifesting itself to some degree, necessitating a visit to an urgent care facility in order to seek some relief. That morning she woke to find that she could not walk as her legs, knees, ankles and feet were swollen and hurting terribly, among other maladies.
It had previously been suggested she get an MRI. Upon researching the costs for such a procedure and learning it might cost a couple thousand dollars, she decided this was something she could not even consider. Sandra does not have medical insurance, mainly because the condition she suffers from is an unusual, acute malady not covered by most insurance, requiring oft-“exotic” treatments, and is generally viewed as a pre-existing condition also not covered by most insurance policies. Common sense dictates that cost was of great concern to her; that she would make verifiably sure of what it was before proceeding.
However, the chiropractor she went to said that his assistant went to Harbor Medical and they simply charged a flat rate of $120 dollars for all services! The tradeoff was that she might spend hours in order to wait for help, but to obtain relief she thought it worth it.
Thinking $120 to be “almost too good to be true,” Sandra called the clinic not once but four times. Each time she discussed in detail where she lived and confirmed the cost involved. Sandra asked the same questions to four different people, informing them she needed not a hospital but only an MRI. Each time she reiterated that she lived in Orange County, and each time they assured her that it would be one flat fee of $120. She called one more time, and spoke to a woman, telling her that she was told that “the wait could be 24 hours or more” that she would “have to sit around.” Sandra asked her if there were any way she could just get an appointment as she was in too much pain to sit that many hours and that no one she knew could devote that much time to stay with her. She was told to “come in at exactly midnight to urgent care (not the emergency room)… Ask for a nurse appointment…You will have only an hour wait.”
It is very important to note that this alternative, while meant to save her a potential 24-hour hospital visit, in no way including any proviso changing the price of said visit from $120 to any higher amount.
As instructed by the nurse she spoke with over the phone she arrived at UCLA Harbor Medical Center at approximately midnight on the evening of September 4, 2011, in the company of her daughter, Angela, where she began a lengthy wait. After a matter of a couple of hours she was asked to fill out some paper work. She had brought her driver’s license, a bill with proof of address, and her birth certificate. These were items she had been instructed to bring when told over the phone how to adhere to the rules that would assure the cost would be maintained at $120.
The receiving attendant reviewed all the information, including where she resided in Westminster (Orange County) and the fact that she had no insurance nor additional funds with which to pay anything above the $120, which had been quoted. She was given an envelope that said “$120 dollars.” But on top of the envelope she saw the words “Estimated $800.”
She immediately brought this to the admitting attendants’ attention and stated that there was “no way I was going to pay $800 dollars, I am only here at midnight because I was told to just make an appointment and come back in the morning for an MRI which is only one flat rate of $120,” and told her that she was just going to leave. The attendant then pointed to the $120 figure written below it, and stated, “No you do not have to pay that. That amount is only if you do not pay the $120 within seven days” (an apparent instrument to help assure timely payment). Her daughter again brought up her residency, asking, “Even if we are in Orange County?” The attendant replied, “Yes, even if you are in Orange County.”
They then began hours of sitting in what can only be described as “filthy, dated, and caustic surroundings.” Sandra was made to sit in what appeared to be some sort of archaic wheelchair made only of steel (no padding nor seat whatsoever; a photo exists) and her daughter in a filthy metal chair. Both endured the long wait.
Finally an orderly came to pick her up saying he was “taking me to emergency.” She immediately told them that the person with whom she spoke over the phone had instructed her “not to go to emergency” but to “get the nurses’ appointment and to go home and come back at the time of the appointment.” The man stated that “the only way you can get your MRI is through emergency.”
At this point Sandra and her daughter had been at the hospital for about 12 hours. She was again ready to leave for fear that this whole situation was getting beyond ridiculous, and everyone seemed to be doing something different than what they had told her would happen. However, upon taking her physical plight into account, along with a dwindling hope that this process would eventually allow her to figure out what was causing the pain, and to obtain some relief, she decided to continue on.
So, after a couple more hours sitting in the hallway with “bloody people on gurneys crying out in pain only to be ignored …” Sandra was finally wheeled over to the nurses’ station for what they told her was going to be a “blood test.” She asked what they were doing a blood test for, again stating her concerns about the coverage for all this - reiterating the fact that she was here to get an MRI - and only because she was told “it was a flat fee of $120 dollars.”
One of the nurses said that “it is just procedure before your MRI . . . everyone has to have a blood test.” They then drew blood. She waited a couple of more hours before they were taken into an exam room. A couple of hours after that a doctor showed up. He did not examine her, only listened to her explain her symptoms, and tapped on her knee once. She had explained that her feet were the problem, but he would “not even look at them,” simply stating, “I will be honest with you, I am just not smart enough to tell you what is wrong.” She told him that she was there for an MRI, to which he said, “Well, I will have to refer you to a specialist.”
The doctor provided no actual, verifiable medical attention, appearing instead to be incompetent.
Sandra and her daughter and had been sitting up for hours and hours on the steel seats, trying to keep warm with no blankets and no one to help them. They finally crawled up on a steel table in an attempt to share body heat. Hours later the doctor came back and said, “The bad news is you are not from our county and you will have to pay full price if I send you to a specialist.”
Sandra: “OMG - we couldn’t believe it!!!”
So, after 16-plus hours of enduring this surreal Alice in Wonderland trip through what appeared to be some sort of “banana republic” medical facility, it was finally too much for them to bear. They decided to give up and go home. She told the doctor the whole time “we took all the steps” and had asked the same question over and over again about “coming from Orange County,” and were re-assured each time there was no problem and that “you can get the MRI, you just have to put up with the wait,” and that “there will only be a one-time fee of $120.”
At that point, according to Sandra’s testimony and witnessed by Angela, the doctor then assured them there would “only be the $120 charge for everything you’ve been through to this point.”
They then suffered through yet another tedious, two-hour wait for someone to release them without word from anyone, before deciding that, in the words of Sandra, “We could not stand it anymore. We went up to the nurses’ station and told them we were leaving. Reviewing our plight with them, the four nurses there reassured us that we would not be paying any more than $120 for all we had endured. The nurses then suggested we call and get someone’s address in the Los Angeles area which we could use in order to obtain the services of the specialist and get the MRI. To which I told them that I was not going to do that as it was not the truth and this was the reason we double- and triple-checked with the cost in the first place, and that this had all been a needless waste of time.” She added that she would find somewhere in her own city to go.
The next day, dismayed beyond belief at what she had been put through (having received absolutely no treatment whatsoever, nor any relief from any of the pain), and not feeling she should have to pay anything - let alone the $120 she was supposedly being charged – Ms. McDowell called the patient advocate and the billing departments. After several calls and numerous times being placed on hold, she finally spoke with some lower level personnel.
Sandra advocated that since she received no actual medical care, and in fact endured a physical and mental experience more than likely more hurtful to her condition than helpful, with no real medical assistance, or help, and was given wrong information, the $120 fee should be waived.
The man in the billing department replied, “You don’t owe $120,” to which Sandra briefly thought, “Ah, justice under the sun,” before the man added, “You owe $4,095.”
Struggling to remain calm, much less conscious, Sandra asked why, and was told it was because she lived n Orange County. Sandra then reiterated all the above-stated facts to the man in the billing department, who said this was “common,” apparently a regular event, a mix-up affecting many patients over a long period of time, and to her arguments replied, “It does not matter if the employees give me the wrong information; I deal with the same story every day. It does not excuse you from paying the bill.”
She told him she would just send the $120 and be done with it. He told her she could not do that. It would just go for a down payment, as like the first payment in a contract, and she would be “admitting to owing the bill.”
He then said she could come down and wait in line again and apply for “out of county assistance for welfare,” to which Ms. McDowell, a patriotic American citizen who has handled her own affairs since early youth replied, “I am not a welfare recipient. I only went there because I was told if I was willing to wait a number of hours, that I could get an MRI for a flat fee.”
“Oh then, you must be rich,” he replied.
This is apparently where America is in 2011!
“Why don't you just have medical insurance?” he asked her.
“I am far from rich, I get my bills paid and I am a responsible citizen, but I could not afford the MRI or $500 a month medical insurance only to have to pay thousands in deductibles,” replied Sandra.
“I just didn’t have such money and I was told this was a workable solution if I could endure the filth and the hours of wait,” added Sandra. “I tried, and after 16 hours, still did not get an MRI nor even so much as an aspirin for pain. I was lied to and surprise, now you want me to pay almost $5,000 for nothing!”
“That is not my problem,” replied the billing man at UCLA – Harbor Medical Center.
Sandra further talked to Yvette and Maria in patient advocacy, and Jessie Vasquez in the billing department. No one would allow her to speak to a manager. They just said it “stops with them.”
So, there are the facts. Apparently, Harbor Medical Center is running a scam by erroneously informing individuals that are in pain and need of medical assistance, that they are able to obtain treatment in their facility, thus luring them into their doors and then pulling some sort of “bait and switch” on them, attempting to force them into paying for services that are not even given.
Not on my watch!
Sandra is a fond believer in the fact that “where there is smoke there’s fire…!” Surely this indicates there are many, many more who have been mis-handled by this and other facilities in what most likely seems to be a major community problem in the medical care profession.
The immediate question for Harbor Medical Center is, “What do you plan to do about this?”
While some of the contents contained herein are testimonial, perhaps not all provable by virtue of written, “smoking gun” documents, this does not change the fact that what is stated is true. Therefore, to fight and oppose both the legal but also the spiritual witness of this document is to place ones’ self on the wrong side of the moral equation, which is never the advised position regardless of legal “advice.” I urgently advocate doing the right thing.
While much of the evidence may be circumstantial or witness, the “reduced payment envelope” indicating $120 may well be the document a jury would most carefully cling to in ruling in Sandra favor.
In a corrupt world, however, the right thing is far too rare and, therefore, Sandra is prepared for them to do the wrong thing, and to do that with which must be done in order to prevail nevertheless. Her legal standing is quite sound. First, there is the case of an oral contract, violated by the hospital when they told Sandra they would provide services for one fee, then did the opposite without any negotiation. This violates long-standing contractual tenets of “implied” duty and the Supreme Court concept of the “benefit of the bargain,” which has long been used to place more weight on negotiated contractual terms over and above “boiler plate” legalese. This form of legal blackmail is used to terrorize citizens who shake when they receive threatening letters from attorneys.
Over and above the hospiotal’s failure to live up to their contract and the tortious “duty of care,” there remains the very simple notion that Sandra did not obtain the services she arrived and expected to receive. She was not actually given medical attention, and most assuredly did not receive expert professional attention specifically aimed at the physical malady she entered your treatment to alleviate.
To put this in terms a jury would understand, if one brings a car in for repair of a radiator, and after some hours the mechanic merely looks at the tires and says they are getting rough, sending the patron home with no new or repaired radiator, but a large bill for a radiator, they have acted fraudulently.
The facts make it obvious that the hospital acted somewhere between fraudulently, maliciously and incompetently while dealing with Sandra, from her first contact with them by phone, to her receiving at the hospital, to the non-existent “medical treatment” she never received, and then to the dastardly lack of empathy, customer satisfaction or respect for basic decency she was subjected to in the aftermath of her ordeal. Not to mention what Harbor Medical did was illegal.
Sandra is a sweet, entrepreneurial single mother trying to make it in a hard world, and does not need a monolithic medical system run amok, or specifically a conglomerate corporate medical leviathan, to make her life more difficult than modern times make them for her and many like her.
Absent satisfaction, she is happy to make use of many contacts in the media and blogosphere; the television and talk show circuit; and the Los Angeles County D.A.’s Consumer Affairs Division; the courts; and small claims court; in an effort to find satisfaction.
Beyond that, it appears to me that a case like this could be the sort of media-splash a celebrity attorney like Gloria Allred would use to form a class action case; or a politician looking for an issue in an age in which health care is a huge issue, would take full advantage of.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism