Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outraged Part 2: A Sticky Situation

It's been three weeks since Emma's cheek was glued shut and two since I learned the cost. An itemized bill indicated we were charged $190 for this:

Dermabond Topical Skin Adhesive

The cost for its correct application was $495 in addition to a $145 charge for the facility. This does not include an additional $42 charge for wound cleaning supplies — gauze and an anticeptic cleanser. The care was prompt and courteous and the wound has healed without complication, but a $836 grand total was and still is a bit hard to swallow.

I decided to do some investigating to determine how much Dermabond sterile skin adhesive might cost. The most expensive I could find online was $480 for a 12-pack, or approximately $40 per unit. The cheapest was $22 per unit. This prompted me to call the hospital administration to pose the question, "Why?"

Here's what I understood from my conversation with OSF St. Francis:
  1. Virtually no one pays the original list price. Insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid all demand discounted rates and, thanks to a recent Illinois law, even the uninsured cannot be charged more than 35% above cost.
  2. Insurance companies want to be able to offer discounted rates to their clients. They aren't interested in lowering the original charges.
  3. If discounts were not demanded or expected, the hospital fees could be reduced by up to 50%.
Interesting, isn't it? Ultimately, after discounts and insurance, our family will be out-of-pocket $74 for the procedure. One might argue that's reasonable. I suppose. But what worries me is the inherent deception: price gauging to give the false impression of discounted rates. It's a sticky situation, and I'm not talking Dermabond.

Did you miss Outraged Part 1? Read it here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colour Me Happy

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Don't bother trying to talk me out of it. I'm painting the powder room, dammit, and no one can stop me. Builder's white, be gone!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The House on Blue Corner

It's been coming since the day we left Switzerland. I knew it was. But with all the unpacking , organizing and planning I was able to forget, at least temporarily, that I was going to feel desperately sad for the life I left behind. Next week is Swiss Promotion when all students are celebrated for having completed the school year. Our American equivalent celebrated only the star performers in athletics and academics. I was left with a sad heart for the children who were not recognized, my own included. A dear friend back in Switzerland just had a baby and I would love to go see her. The Geneva Writers' Group had their last meeting of the season on Saturday and I wasn't there. 

I know it will pass but, for now, you know where to find me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Love, Lies and Lollipops

We'd been in the doctor's waiting area for a matter of seconds when the Jar of Temptation was discovered: a glass canister filled to the brim with lollipops. 

"Can we have one, Mommy?"

"Yeah, can we?"

I paused. "Well, I was planning to go for ice cream after this."

"Mmm, ice cream," said one daughter, licking her lips.

The other dove for the jar. "I don't want ice cream. I want a lolly." 

A half hour later my appointment was over and so was the sweet. "Let's go for ice cream," I said. 

One child bounded for the door while the other sulked and shuffled her feet.

"Mommy, I didn't have a sweet after lunch. Can I still have an ice cream?" the sulker asked, hopeful.  In our family a sweet after lunch is as natural as breathing.  I could follow the sulker's logic to it's conclusion: the lolly was her after-lunch sweet therefore she still qualified for an ice cream.

Bullets of rage flew from the bounders eyes. "Yes, you did have a sweet! I saw you.  It was a chocolate ball."

"No I didn't!"

"Yes, you did," screeched the bounder.  "Mommy, she's lying!"

I hadn't been home at lunch but was tempted to believe the bounder.   "I suppose I could ask Lateeka if you had dessert."

"I didn't and neither of you believe me."

Ouch. She'd played the trust card. 

"I want to believe you, sweetie, but I also know how much you want an ice cream. Let's go," I said and walked to the car. 

We were pulling into the Dairy Queen drive-thru when the bounder asked, "So, are you going to call Lateeka, Mommy?"  The sulker was quiet, but listening. 

"I'm not sure," I said meeting the sulker's gaze in my rear-view mirror.

Suddenly a voice squawked, "Welcome to Dairy Queen. What can I get for you today?"

I turned around and looked the sulker in the eye. "Vanilla cone or a dip."


"Dip," echoed the bounder.

"Two small vanilla dips and a small vanilla cone, please."

We were half way home when I noticed the sulker was not eating her ice cream. Only a small bite was taken off the top. The rest was sweating profusely.  I've never liked dips.

"Don't you like it?" I asked.

"No," she said.

At home she threw the cone in the trash. 

 "Are you still going to call Lateeka, Mommy?"

"I don't think I should have to.  Come. Let's go talk, just you and me."

Once alone in my room the truth trickled out along with a bucket of tears: "I think... I think I may have forgotten that I did have a sweet after lunch, Mommy." 

"You think?" I said, hugging her close.


"Did you really not like the ice cream?"

"I liked it, but I didn't want to get in trouble."


"I'm sorry, Mommy."

"I'm proud."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


As some readers may recall, Emma suffered a fall shortly before we left Switzerland, splitting open her chin. The cut was not large but gaped and bled profusely due to its location.  We went to the local emergency room where the wound was cleaned, assessed and determined to require stitches. Multiple injections of local anesthetic were required, as were three nurses to keep a hysterical Emma from moving. In the end, Emma left with three sutures and a smile on her face.  We'd both survived.

Leap forward now to two weeks ago when Emma's cheek was split open by a flying tow rope handle. The cut was slightly over 1 cm long with straight, well opposed edges but due to its location —just under her eye— we drove to a nearby walk-in clinic to have it checked. A nurse took Emma's vitals and cleaned the wound.  Shortly thereafter the doctor on duty examined the cut and judged it to be small enough to glue closed.  No anaesthetic or assistants were required for the procedure which took about five minutes from start to finish.

Let's compare bills, shall we?

Switzerland: $549 (converted from Swiss Franc)
USA: $836

OSF St. Francis Prompt Care has some explaining to do.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gone as an Applet

An interesting answer to the question, 
"So what's your novel about anyway?" 

The image above was created by software that analyses how often a word is used in a given text. Note how large the word 'like' is in the image above. It makes me wonder if my use of similes is a bit heavy-handed.  Perhaps it isn't, but it's worth a look. Thanks, John, at Manner of Speaking, for reminding me of this fun, web-based tool. 

Make your own Wordle applet at