A Metaphor for the Hospital Billing Process

I enter a local Burger King with pangs of hunger stabbing my stomach.  Someone told me that I just had to go here.  I wait in line.  A cashier speaks, “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I answer.  “By God, I’m here for help.  I’m very hungry.”  I scan the register for a menu.  “I’m not sure what to order.”

“You don’t know what you want.  We’ll take care of that,” says the cashier.  “We’re going to give you a Whopper.  That will probably do the trick.”

“How much does a Whopper cost?”

“Hard to say really.  We really think you need it though.”

There are stabs in my stomach.  They make a Whopper for me and I eat it.  The pangs of hunger slide away.

Two months and seven days later I get a letter from Burger King.  Enclosed is an invoice for $292.38.  Subtitle – Whopper.

I call Burger King.  “Yes, hello.  You cared for me recently.  I see there is a large amount of money I owe you?”

“Yes that’s right,” says the voice.  “You consumed our product.”

“But if I knew the price, I would have never eaten it.”

“We have prices available.  But we prefer not to share them with you.”

“I’m not paying that much for a Whopper.  It’s just a hunk of meat.”

“Sir, the prices for meat are not set by Burger King.  You’ll need to call the person in charge of meat and talk to them.”

“What is their number?”

“No one knows.  There is no number.”

“How can I call an entity that does not exist?”

“You cannot do that.  It is impossible.”

“I see.”

“Unfortunately, the product has already been consumed,” the voice says.  “Unless you’d like to file bankruptcy?”

“No,” I reply.  “I don’t think that will be necessary.  I’ll just give you the money because I am hopeless and alone.”

“Thank you.  Your next scheduled visit to Burger King is in 2 months.  We will give you French Fries then.”

“I would like to cancel that appointment.”

“We need 7 months notice.  By cancelling now you will incur a fee of $412.31.”

“Very well.”


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