… All I could hear was my heartbeat thundering in my head.
My French language skills were disserting me rapidly – disappearing into the answers they were giving me faster than my tired mind could translate.
Technical terms. Medical terms. Things that belong in an ER but not in my vocabulary.
I did get douleur (pain).
I did get caseé (broken.)
I did get os (bone.)
And after the X-Ray – I got paiement (payment).
And that’s when the real terror set in. Yes, I’d hurt my ankle badly a week ago and have hardly been able to stand, sit, walk, or sleep without pain and worry. And since it was the same ankle I broke 4 years ago I was worried. And since it was the same ankle that back then took THREE trips to the doctor to finally get x-rayed and get diagnosed as broken – I was very worried.
I’m also facing a time of intense physical demand at work – and a 15-hour plane ride. A broken ankle is SO not on my menu!
But more than those worries, I was sitting in the waiting area with horror and panic… I need to pay!
Yes, I have insurance – but not in France. I have to pay and then get reimbursed.
I was frantically trying to figure out which credit cards I had with me – and which ones would work in these darn European machines that don’t take magnetic strips and only chips!
A drop of sweat was rolling down my back.
And what’s my balances?!?!
I did not want to be THAT American who not only is struggling with explaining how her ankle was throbbing and why, despite no bruising, I wanted an x-ray… but then also be THAT person who has to make multiple payments to be able to hobble out.
How much will this be? €300? €400? €500?
Three years ago my sister paid $250 in a NYC ER for them to check her temperature and tell her she was dehydrated, then send her home (This was AFTER she’d had such a severe seizure she’d nearly bit her tongue in two. It turned out it was a brain tumor.) And the $250 payment was insane for a cup of cold water.
In the last two years I saw with my parents the cost of treatments for cancer, for hearts, for helicopter rides. MRI bills for my mom that were in the thousands.
I was just wishing that I could jump up and make a hobble for it when two women approached me – one in her white doctor’s jacket and one in a blue “I-do-billing” suit.
The ankle is NOT broken! (But no running for a while and I have to wear an ultra non-sexy boot for 2 weeks. “Thank God!” I thought while squeezing my eyes in fear of the real pain that was about to come…)
And my bill was €52.
Wait… what? An ER visit and X-Rays.
I must have misunderstood. I asked her to repeat the number.
I couldn’t believe it – I looked at the slip of paper she handed me desperately trying to listen to her explain the reimbursement process while searching for more zeros.
Nope… it was right. €52.
I was simultaneously relieved that I was living outside the US with insanely inflated costs for medical care. And mad that the US has insanely inflated prices.