Burch: Take me to your Pilot, part 3

Friday, July 12, 2013 at 5:29pm
By Michael R. Burch

The idea behind the current Pilot “discount” scam might be paraphrased as, “There’s a trusting, unquestioning rube born every minute, and if we can only overbill him, we can make lots of extra moolah without actually earning it.”

The testimony of Pilot stool pigeons who sang to avoid the slammer makes it clear that Pilot’s scam targeted customers trusting enough to pay bills without scrutinizing them. Any customer who checked the math and figured out that it didn’t add up, would immediately be put on a much fairer (i.e., honest) billing program.

But the hucksters at Pilot didn’t invent this scam, and a much larger one is targeting large numbers of poor and elderly Nashvillians, on a daily basis. Some of them are in terrible pain and living on the brink of death, but the people they trust with their lives — hospital administrators and doctors — are involved in a coldblooded scam to overbill them, and only charge them fairly if they protest.

My wife Beth and I became victims of this scam when she had to be rushed to a local hospital with what turned out to be a chemical imbalance. (She has struggled with anorexia for years and sometimes doesn’t eat enough to keep a hummingbird in good health.) Beth received excellent medical care from local health care professionals, and she came home speaking highly of the hospital and its staff ... until the bill arrived.

When she reviewed the bill, she discovered that medicine that is very affordable at our local pharmacy was outrageously expensive at the hospital. A single bag of saline solution (salt water) cost $211. A pill that normally costs 26 cents (30 for $7.99) cost $186, for a single pill! We were, of course, shell-shocked. The total bill was more than $12,000 for a brief hospital stay and our insurance company refused to pay the outrageous prices.

However, a patient advocate revealed the nature of the scam by telling us that if we disputed the bill we could expect to save a lot of money. Beth had to get on the phone and spend a lot of shouldn’t-have-been-necessary time with various bean-counters. That time kept her away from work, costing us more money. We are still waiting to hear what the final bill will be. Of course this has created additional stress for us, and especially for Beth.

It seems to me that Nashville hospitals are pulling their own scams, except that many of their customers are elderly, in poor health, stressed-out, and not always able to think clearly. How many of them just paid the bills, not realizing that the markup on a pill that normally cost 26 cents could be 71,538 percent?

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

Filed under: City Voices

34 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 7/12/13 at 4:39

I'm sorry to hear about your wife's health problem, Mike. We all want to feel "healthy as a horse" and never go see a doctor until he has to pronounce us dead.

Have you noticed in the past few years what has become one of the biggest industries in the nation? The medical field. Big hospitals are buying out "small town" hospitals or moving offices into small towns in their area.

Could it be because of the increase of population every year and that means more money?

In the medical field, as all other types of work, you have experts, good doctors, not too bad and "he don't know what the hell he's doing" types.

By: Mike Burch on 7/12/13 at 5:59


For once we agree. Beth is an angel and she didn't deserve the stress of having to deal with a hospital bill so outrageous the insurance company refused to pay it.

Big chains buy smaller hospitals, which reduces competition and allows them to increase prices. People who are ill enough to need hospitals don't have time to window shop. And the quality of care at some hospitals is abysmal. Beth stopped going to Saint Thomas (now Saint Thomas West) because she was treated like a junkie because she takes pain medicine for chronic back pain. But even if she was a junkie, she would still be entitled to compassionate care. Who gives doctors and nurses the right to judge their fellow human beings?

By: yogiman on 7/12/13 at 7:48

I like the "good ole days", Mike. Doctors would come to your home to "take care" of you. And you could even pay them with a bag of fresh corn if you was broke.

But what the heck, I'm thinking about three decades ago when you could buy a new car for $800 and a pack of cigarettes for 8 cents.

Them days have been flushed down the commode.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 8:22

When the doctor made home visits was more than three decades ago and pack of cigarettes were more than 8 cents. 30 years ago a new car would cost more than $800.00. This post only shows just how out of touch Comrade yogi is with the rest of the world and life.

How come on yogi, with your stupid and lame come backs. Show us just how stupid you really are.

By: govskeptic on 7/13/13 at 8:56

Mike: I understand exactly what you are talking about. The problem is one that is
not being seriously addressed by any current principals involved. Neither the
so-called afforable care act, any consumer groups, and certainly not the Insurance
companies nor health providers. I suspect these billing procedures go so far back
they have developed their own strange protocals and systems that no one currently
has an interest in getting things right.

As might be expected from me, I suggest the biggest problems started with Medicare and the government involvement in payments across the country, along with their price setting for those providers. I truly expect most "ole timers" in the health care industry would agree. Small providers along others had so many regulations they had to adhere to that many went to 3rd party companies to handle the rules and regulations. That's when the kitchen sink along with $5.00 aspirins started appearing on the charts just to cover all the margins and bills that would then be negotiated with the insurance companies along with the government regulators that have to pay their part of the bills. If you were one that usually paid cash for care or worked out a plan to pay the bill became impossible. and insurance became the only way possible to get by no matter the premiums-and these companies loved the new system. Actual cost and reasonable profits
margins are so far from reality accounting it will take a miracle effort to now
get anywhere near what it should be--but not impossible.

By: Rasputin72 on 7/13/13 at 9:28

Nemo. Omly you presents him self as the dumb shit you have been all your life.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 9:34

Omly? Raspy old boy,I think you make me look good.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 9:37

Raspy old, since you have no clue as to I am. I would like to know how you can say that you know who I am.

By: grid on 7/13/13 at 9:46

My sympathies to you & your wife, Mike. I don't often agree with what you write, but I am in full agreement with you on this article.

Have you considered filing a complaint with the hospital and/or its parent company? This sure smells like attempted fraud to me.

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 10:16

For once you are correct, dumba$$, and, honestly, I'm amazed you saw that error before any of your comrades.

It should have been over 7 decades ago.

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 10:22


How much worse is Rasputin72's "omly" misspelling for only only than your "How" for 'now'?

Because of an extra letter, perhaps?

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 11:50


I'm glad we can agree on something. But I hope it isn't just your situation with the medical field.

My question of today: Have you bothered to recheck your post of last week on your "argument" about Obama's constitutional eligibility and reread The Naturalization Act of 1790 which as you noted "the children of citizens of the United States...", not just citizen.

You're a good writer, Mike, and I hope you're a good researcher. I don't know if the law has been changed, but you'll you find it in the laws of 1961 a child's mother had to have lived in the USA at least 5 years after her 14th birthday. Barry's mother was only 18 when he was born. She would need to be at least 19 to pass her citizenship down to him.

Look into it a little deeper, Mike, it's a lot deeper than what Obama in claiming. Don't you think he would readily identify himself if he was in that office legally?

Why was the "birth certificate" he finally presented proven by experts (not one, but several) to be computer printed from several levels of paper?

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 12:01

You are right about a child who has one parent who is an American citizen is an American citizen at birth, but that child is not a natural born citizen with only one American parent.

And if you dig deep enough, Mike, I believe you will find Barack Hussein Obama was born as a British subject, whether he was born in Hawaii or Kenya.

I refer you again to Congress:

First Congress Sess. II. Ch. 3 (1790) p104
Third Congress Sess. II Ch. 21 (1795) p415

Did those congressmen make an error and mean "citizen" instead of "citizens" in their definition of natural born citizen?

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 2:10

Comrade yogi slow wit forgets that it is he that is the North Korean agent.

Just how many only only is there in your11:22 post Comrade yogi. It seem that your stupid come backs lacks intelligent understanding. But you are the moron.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 2:14

Mike before my wife's death, she would go through all our medical bill to find anything that we should not be charged for. It helps to have a medical background.

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 2:19

Obviously there should have been only one 'only' in that post, dumba$$. I can only wish I was as ignorant as you.

Let's see, how many errors did you make in that sentence? You posted: It seem that your stupid come backs ....

Did you, perhaps, mean "seems" instead of seem, dumba$$?

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 2:23

Being ignorant would be an improvement for you Comrade yogi.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/13/13 at 2:26

Thanks for pointing out my yogi....yogi.

By: yogiman on 7/13/13 at 2:53

You're welcome, dumba$$. Just keep your ignorance locked in your weak skull, it's damaging your brain too much.

By: yogiman on 7/14/13 at 9:03

I read where there has already been a riot in Chicago after the Zimmerman decision. I hope it's the only one that occurs because Zimmerman was found innocent.

I personally believe anyone committing a race riot should be killed on the spot.

By: bfra on 7/14/13 at 10:12

Show where you read this brainless blob!

By: Captain Nemo on 7/14/13 at 11:44

Is this the riot you’re talking about, Comrade yogi? With your poor sense of history and good judgment this must be what you see in that fuzzy head of yours.


By: bfra on 7/14/13 at 12:52

Nemo = What do you expect from a brainless blob & racist on top of that?

By: yogiman on 7/14/13 at 2:53

Sorry, bfra, and you, also, dumba$$..Neither of you know how to read anything I refer to. You've proven too many times to try to explain anything to you is a waste of time and effort.

But if either of you can prove to me your man is in that office legally I'll make a better effort to inform you. Do you really enjoy proving your ignorance? Or should I post your arrogance?

By: bfra on 7/14/13 at 3:49

Poor old brainless blob, when he has no rebuttal (that would make sense) he reverts back to his 4 1/2 year old blub blub blubber, which has no facts or proof. Blow on windbag!

By: yogiman on 7/14/13 at 5:02

You had better lock you door and stay home, bfra. Your New Black Panther friends have declared war on white Americans. Since I'm so ignorant by your mentality, I presume you're an American, so you're in that war even though you didn't volunteer.

I believe you've mentioned you're a member of the NRA. If you are, maybe you should clean your guns and load them up. It could get very dangerous to go to town in the near future.

But, heck, I'm lying, leave your gun at home and go anywhere in town your little heart desires. You'll be safe.

And you can go with her, dumba$$. They'll be afraid of you when they see you. Just act normal, I understand they won't harm an idiot. They're afraid they might catch it from you.

By: bfra on 7/14/13 at 5:09

I sure don't need a brainless blob racist to tell me how to care for my guns or when & where I can go. Get your head out of your ass & join the present World.

By: Captain Nemo on 7/14/13 at 5:16

Your right us not understanding anything you post,Comrade yogi. You speak babel and we speak English.

By: yogiman on 7/15/13 at 6:38

I'm afraid I'm way ahead of you in the present world, bfra. Hopefully, you'll become educated some day in the not too distant future and learn the facts you're ignorant of now.

By: yogiman on 7/15/13 at 6:41

Well, dumba$$,

I'm certainly glad my "babel" is so much better than your English... because you're constantly demonstrating you don't know how to use it. Could that only be your ignorance on display?

By: Captain Nemo on 7/15/13 at 1:27

Comrade yogi, I am afraid that your North Korean handlers really screw your brains so bad, that your babel is not very good.

By: pswindle on 7/15/13 at 2:33

Everything that Haslam has done is to help him, his family, their businesses, his friends, his friends businesses and just plain helping out friends in need. Example, the state buying a 5M dollar building for 10M because it belonged to friends. This man has got to be stopped.

By: budlight on 7/15/13 at 3:36

By: Mike Burch on 7/12/13 at 6:59

For once we agree. Beth is an angel and she didn't deserve the stress of having to deal with a hospital bill so outrageous the insurance company refused to pay it.

And Mike, welcome to the world we all live and try to survive in. And some people are naive enough to think Obama(don't)Care will lower our costs. NOT.

By: yogiman on 7/15/13 at 8:11


Trying to teach these Obama fans facts as to what he is, is like trying to tech a cat how to bark like a dog.