When Non-Profits Only Care About the Money

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On Facebook I shared a post about some tax changes that are being made to churches and non-profit institutions. The debate that started, made me think about my own experience working for a non-profit organization and I wanted to share a little bit of that here. For around 6 months or so, I worked for a non-profit religious hospital system. My job was to be one of the people in the emergency department who collected patient information (especially insurance information) and processed payments.

From the beginning, it was drilled into us that it was about the money. We were hounded to make sure we collected certain percentages of money from patients while they were still there in the building, whether they could afford it or not. We were encouraged to apply pressure to them to pay at least a percentage that day, regardless of their personal circumstances. Although patients could legally ask to be billed later, we were told to NEVER tell them that, and only offer that option if they brought it up first.

We were told bluntly that the hospital had to make sure to look like they were doing enough “public outreach” to keep their non-profit tax status, so when they did run public assistance programs we were told to advertise them when talking to patients. It became clear that they didn’t necessarily do programs for the poor because they CARED about them, it was so they could continue to get the tax breaks and other non-profit advantages. I heard so much negative talk there about Medicaid patients and the poor. I was also told flat out that the company was purposefully looking into opening more locations in areas where the people were more likely to pay, and closing locations where the populations were poorer.

One huge issue I had was that even when someone was brought to the ER and died, we were pressured to try to get money from their grieving relatives. More than once, those in charge actually chose not to tell family members that their loved one had passed away until AFTER we collected insurance information and copays/deductible payments. They would send us in, and we would know the family’s loved one was gone, but we were told to lie and pretend we knew nothing. This killed me to have to do. One time a lady begged me for information on her husband who was dead, and I couldn’t tell her anything. I also struggled to go up to a mother whose child has just tried to commit suicide and ask her for money. I felt like scum.

In the end, I couldn’t keep this job due to my own health issues, but I couldn’t have kept doing it with a clear conscience either.

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Illusions

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If I could have one wish, I would wish more than anything that we as humanity could let go of our illusions –

religious illusions
political illusions
personal illusions

so that we could take a cold, hard look at reality as it actually is, and work together to solve our real problems at the core. Of course, I would have to start with myself, being willing to let go of any illusions I still hold, illusions I am blind to. In fact, I have found that it is almost impossible for any of us to recognize our own illusions until we have come to a place where we are willing to let them go.

*Art by Maranda Russell

How Accurate are Blood and Skin Allergy Tests?

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Well, I’ve officially started allergy shots. Not long ago they conducted a skin allergy test on me to see if that might be contributing to my chronic ear/sinus/respiratory infections. They had already once run an allergy blood test on me (which showed I was only allergic to dogs), but they said the skin allergy test was more accurate and wanted to see what it read. So, I took a week off from all allergy medicines (which was awful in itself in many ways…and who knew that going off Zyrtec could cause withdrawal symptoms???), and then went for the allergy test.

They ended up poking me almost 100 times, checking various strengths of 27 different common allergens. By the time the lady had gotten to the third round of testing (around the 60th shot), I was really struggling to make it through. Fibromyalgia makes your pain response to anything worse anyhow, and getting stuck that many times can begin to feel like some kind of medieval torture device. By the end, my arms looked like cheese graters, with rows of holes all over them.

I waited a few minutes for the nurse to tally the results and found out I was allergic to 22 of the 27 things they tested for, which means 3 vials worth of shots that I’ll have to take for the next 3-5 years. While the ENT doctor does not think this alone is at the root of my chronic infections, she definitely thinks it could help.

The thing that frustrates me greatly is that I was tested for all this stuff by blood test a few years ago and it only showed ONE allergy! How in the world could the blood test be that inaccurate that it didn’t show one other allergen, when I am allergic to at least 21 other common allergens to the point that I need long-term treatment? I know for a fact many of the things I tested greatly allergic to in the skin test WERE also things they tested for in the blood test. In fact, for the skin test, I tested LESS allergic to dogs than many of the other allergens that didn’t show up at all in the blood test! How could the first test have been so inaccurate, and do physicians know exactly how inaccurate the test can be? If so, it sure would have been nice if someone would have told me back then. Maybe it could have helped prevent a few years’ worth of pain and suffering!

I’m curious, has anyone else had both tests and had such widely varying results? If so, did anyone ever explain to you why? I would sure like to know for myself.