This is one of those horrible stories which seem to illustrate vividly the problem with the whole “profit in healthcare” system that is now in place in the United States.
On Saturday, 10 days after Scott Hawkins was beaten to death inside his dormitory at California State University, Sacramento, his parents got a letter in the mail.
It contained a bill from the UC Davis Medical Center for $29,186.50 along with a form letter addressed “Dear Patient” that implied they were indigent and stated that the hospital no longer could provide them services.
“UC Davis can no longer provide follow-up care or any other non-emergency care to you,” it read. “Please go to a County clinic for all non-emergency care or to get a referral to another doctor.”
For Gerald and Elizabeth Hawkins, it was just too much to bear.
“It was just devastating and insulting,” Gerald Hawkins said Monday. “It’s just hard to grasp for words. My wife and I were near collapse.”
The couple said the mailing tore at the wounds opened by the loss of their 23-year-old son.
“We were just very upset on Saturday, it just all spiraled downward,” Elizabeth Hawkins said. “We called a crisis counselor and he came over and spent several hours over here.”
As a means of coping, the family made a copy of the letter, took it into the backyard of their Santa Clara home and burned it.
Monday morning, they picked up the phone to straighten things out.
Gerald Hawkins said he first called the UC Davis billing department, but was so distraught he lost his voice and handed the phone to his wife.
“It was just one more unpleasant process,” she said. “I was crying through the whole thing.”
The parents also sent a note to the billing department noting that their son was not indigent and that he carried full medical coverage through a Kaiser Permanente plan.
Contacted by The Bee on Monday, Carole Gan, a hospital spokeswoman, called the mailing “a mistake.”
A “mistake”. Yeah, I’ll say. Having a for-profit healthcare system is, indeed, a “mistake”.
Sorry! We made a mistake! You’ll just have to get over it! Now have a nice day!