Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas Fires Worker for Revealing Prices Up Front, Lawsuit Says

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texashealth.org
The lawsuit Patricia Lawson filed Tuesday against Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas is a straightforward discrimination claim. Lawson, a 64-year-old surgical systems supervisor with two decades' experience at the hospital, says Presby fired her in October 2012 for being too old and a woman.

The hospital didn't admit that, of course. No sensible HR manager would fire a member of a protected class without first scrounging up some legally defensible justification. So, when the hospital told Lawson she was fired, it said it had caught her violating Texas Health Resources' code of conduct.

"More specifically," the lawsuit says, "[Lawson] was told she was fired for giving information regarding customary pricing for a surgical procedure to a doctor."

To review, Presby didn't fire Lawson because she was old, which would be illegal. It canned her because she provided information on what potential patients might expect to pay, which is totally kosher.

See also: Medical City is Dallas' Most Expensive Hospital

A spokesman for Texas Health Resources said he would take a look at the lawsuit but has not yet responded to a request for comment. But hospitals' opacity when it comes to pricing is well known.

Stephen Brill's piece in Time last year did a solid job of capturing the absurdity of the health care industry's pricing practices and prompted the federal government to release "chargemaster" data showing the base price hospitals bill Medicare for the most common procedures.

Presby, for the record, bills the feds at a lower rate than most Dallas hospitals. That's something, but the data say little about what insurance companies, or the uninsured, wind up paying, which varies widely based on circumstances and bargaining power.

A rational health care market, one in which patients can make fully informed decisions about which provider to choose based on cost and quality of care, is still a long way off. To get there -- if that ever happens -- prices will have to be posted up front, and there will have to be a relatively easy way to compare them. Also, hospitals will probably have to stop firing employees who tell customers what they'll be charged.

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43 comments
8binabb
8binabb

I used to work with this wretched cow.  She is such a man hating hag.  she should have been put out to pasture a long time ago...she was as pleasant as a loaded adult diaper

MissMacy
MissMacy

My husband had three moles removed as an out-patient. From admission to checkout was four hours. The hospital's bill was $30,000, not including the surgeon's fee or the anesthesiologist. We were only out-of-pocket $1,500 but still think that original charge was outrageous!

animas
animas

Apparently, certain aspects of Presby-THR pricing are a matter of public record, which evidently accounts for the author's declaration that "Presby,for the record bills the feds at a lower rate than most Dallas hospitals". 


ATHR facility,for the record ,has been involved in the not too distant past with Medicare antikickback violations which resulted in at least a one million dolllar CMS fine.  They are likely under some sort of compliance plan and perpetual federal scrutiny.  Certainly, it is not uncommon for large hospital chains to discharge, fire, have cut backs, or what ever of  well paid senior employees who are likely to have earned a significant pension as part of their "benefits".Finding an employee in "violation" of hospital rules, may be an excuse to save some money that the tenured employee would otherwise have coming to them.  Sounds like a case for Charla Aldous,who I believe got some kind of settlement for a cardiologist who lost his privileges"politically" at the same hospital.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

just got a statement for blood work for my son.  Cooks billed $1500 to my insurance, they in turn paid $112 as that is what they say the agreed price is, at this time I owe $0.  Based on previous experience, I should be receiving a bill shortly for a large portion of $1400.  Healthcare is a joke

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

1 day in the hospital for meningitis....$13k charged to the insurance.

Got the itemized bill and the first 20 items were words and procedures with at least 15 letters each.  No idea what they were, no way of proving they were actually performed.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Maybe she should have followed the Obama lead, and lied her ass off.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

The county hospital has its problems - but they're nothing compared to what goes on at these Republican-owned, Christian-themed hospitals.


bmarvel
bmarvel

Can anybody here think of another business in which the price to the consumer is kept secret until after the purchase? 

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

Cost shifting is one of the main reasons healthcare is so expensive.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@MissMacy 

The original charge is a clerical fiction that is created in response to the broken health-care finance system that we have cultivated in this country as the corporate / gov't / private healthcare pseudo-system was forced to absorb the costs of the uninsured. It's why your daily ibuprophen during a hospital stay gets itemized out at $75.

It'll be a long time before all of those distortions fall into line with the new financing model, and by then there will certainly be other new and ridiculous distortions in the market created by structural flaws in the new system.

Meet the new boss . . .  

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

I just racked up over 50K, paid about 6500. No complaints here.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@dallas_dude 

I always ask if it's something Nyquil will take care of before I commit to a course of treatment.

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

first comment huh...well that didn't take long.

animas
animas

@bvckvs Actually, you bring up some very good points.  The "not for profit" Christian themed hospital chains get three to ten times the reimbursements which other facilities get.  They get huge tax breaks (like no state sales tax on medical supplies, consultants,etc) which other facilities and physicians offices must pay.  And in THR's case, (but I believe it is the same for Baylor) the CEO makes in excess of 5 million dollars salary- yearly -exclusive of bonuses (according to the DMN in 2013).  The AHA (American Hospital Association) like the health insurance industry has a huge state and national lobby which has managed to influence both parties, but most local CEOs appear to be proud Republicans.  There was an interesting story in the WSJ last fall regarding the untimely demise of the financier  son of the former Baylor hospital CEO and their family ties to Gov. Perry , etc.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel 

Auto repair:

Well . . . ya' see, once we got under the hood an' got yer air cleaner off, we noticed that your knooter valve were all plugged up, and that'll git yer blinker fluid all fouled - now - once that happens, all bets are off and this could range anywhere from, say, $500 to upwards of $1800 . . .

Now then, did 'ya still want that oil change you came in for . . . ?  

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@bmarvel Not that I agree with the shady way hospitals and insurance companies do business, but to be fair it's also the only business where you can get your service and simply not pay for it.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@ruddski yeah, that aint too bad.  My kid was a $50k birth, out of pocket about $6000 but that was not without haggling with my insurance and the hospital.  The insurance company would say, the hospital wasnt billing correctly and the hospital would say the insurance wasnt billing the correct agreed upon amounts.  Needless to say, who knows what the real cost was, but you know its never the same for 2 different people  

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

So now mention of Obamacare is bad even in a discussion of healthcare. Gotta love that. That which cannot be spoken of.

According to some yapping head at MSNBC (an obscure cable channel), the term "Obamacare" is now coded racism. Methinks her opinion of O'care must be kinda low, eh?

It's gonna get a lot better too.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Sotiredofitall @bvckvs

When I was studying Zen Buddhism, a monk told me that when you see a lot of things going wrong all at the same time, there are usually just a few, basic things that are the source of that problem.
Today, most of our nation's problems have their foundations in religious and anti-government extremism.  Arguably, that's been true for a very, very long time - even before the first conservative, southern Christian declared black slavery to be "God's Will".


Ignoring that truth is a great way to perpetuate the problem.

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

And what do you mean simply not pay for it?  You think it disappears into thin air?  Ever heard of a credit report?  You don't think hospitals don't go after people in court?  Guess what the number one reason cited for bankruptcy?  HEALTHCARE DEBT.

Why do you think premiums kept going up and up even before ACA.  It's cost shifting.  To you, to me, to companies, to the government, people don't work for free.

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

It's the only "business" where the product is literally your life.  Therefore I don't really think it's a business at all.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

If there's an EMS on board, it qualifies.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ruddski 

And then there is the City of Dallas which was billing everyone for critical care EMS services when all that was provided was simple transport.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

You can get some charges reduced if you keep at it.

I got billed $1800 for a 4-mile ambulances ride because the ambulance company wasn't "in my network". Like I'm supposed to have the 911 operator research that. OK.

I fought it, and won.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Yes Greg, whatever you're trying to say, yes.

Greg820
Greg820

@ruddski You first discredit the commenter and then promote the comment?  You do understand that no one takes you seriously, right?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@russell.allison1@bvckvs@Sotiredofitall

When Adams was arguing with Jefferson about slavery, Jefferson proudly declared himself an abolitionist - even though he was arguing that they should not oppose slavery.
Adams told Jefferson, "Perhaps it's time to update your credentials."

So if the only proof you have that modern day Republicans are NOT racists is the fact that Lincoln freed the slaves - it's probably time for you freaks to update your credentials.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@bvckvs @Sotiredofitall Also, a more thorough study of Theravada Buddhism might better prepare you to more studiously observe and diligently meditate on the true nature of dukkha and how you can aleviate the craving and ignorance that perpetuates that dukkha in yourself.  After rigorous study and meditation of the eightfold paths  and deliberate efforts to fully integrate those truths into your own life perhaps you may see clearly that which causes you such vexation.  Taoist writings and meditation on those principles might also help.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Remember, Bucky is employed by DISD.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@dallas_dude Spoke to a mortgage broker a few years ago.  He told me that medical debt was so common that his group didn't give it much weight when considering mortgage loans.  That was back when a 19 year old fry cook at McDonalds could have qualified for a home loan though, not sure if its still that way or not.

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