Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Campaign '10 News & Notes: You're Hired! | Main | Tilley's Cafe Is Being Sold »

September 23, 2009

Bleeding a Stone, the Fletcher Allen Way

Dear Dr. Melinda Estes,

Thank you for your letter dated September 16. I appreciate you thinking of me and taking the time to write. It must be tough for you to find a spare minute in your day, what with you being the president and C.E.O. of Vermont's largest hospital and all. And running it well, from what I hear from friends who are doctors and nurses there. They quite like what you've done with the place since you were hired in 2003.


I've witnessed the high quality of health care at Fletcher Allen myself in the past few months. In the early part of the year, I went to Africa and came back with some nasty stowaways in my belly. Thankfully, FAHC was there for me in my hour, or rather months, of need. My intestinal tract will forever be in your debt.

Not only are my guts indebted to you, but I am as well. Well, I'm actually, like, in real debt. I still owe your hospital about $100 for all of the travel health clinic, gastroenterologist and colo-rectal surgeon visits I made from January to April. That's why I can't quite figure out why you sent me a letter asking me to donate to the hospital's Annual Fund.

The photo to the right is an illustration of me trying to figure out why you sent me this letter.

I understand we're in tough economic straits. Why do you think I still owe you guys $100? But really. You're trying to bleed a stone and it ain't gonna work.You should know that. You're a board-certified em dee.

While I appreciate the "recent achievements" of the hospital that you outlined in your letter, perhaps a nicer tack to take would have been something along the lines of "Dear Lauren, Sorry we sent your name to a collections agent and sorry we destroyed your credit. We're prepared to forgive and forget if you pony up some greenbacks to help us get a few new EKG units. Love, Mindy."

A letter like that would have been much more kindly received than one whose penultimate sentence read "Your financial support ensures our success so please consider a gift of $50 or more to the 2009 Annual Fund." Ok, so you only want my money if it's more than $50? But I can't afford my health bills, so how am I meant to afford a donation to your institution, award-winning though it may be?

Also, isn't my financial support coming in the form of continued business? When I had that bacterial infection in my gut, I went to your hospital, not one in New York or New Hampshire. Am I not continuing to support the hospital by, like, continuing to get exotic bugs and then paying for the treatment of those bugs? Even if my money's a little late, it's still spendable in all our 50 states, I'm quite sure.

So what I'm saying Mindy — can I call you Mindy? — is that since I don't make $800,000 a year like you do, my belt has to be cinched a little tighter. I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to be able to make a donation to the FAHC Annual Fund this year. But I promise I'll get that hundred shekels to you by the end of the year. I know you need it.

Very truly yours,
Lauren Ober 

Epic blurt. Quite possibly my favorite. I look forward to what others have to say. Fingers crossed some of your trolls show up.

I agree. I thought my donation was the 10s of thousands of dollars myself and my insurance company have spent there. Or how about those $20 hospital socks I was charged for?

The uninsured clause that FAHC is because Federal Law requires no longer turning away people. But FAHC spends plenty of money sending people to collections. Technically at least for all treatment in the ER no one should be made to pay if they have no insurance according to the Fed regs. The fund doesn't excuse their behavior. If the hospital ever started to lose money (fat chance), the State Board would support increasing medical fees to cover it in the present situation. FAHC would never be allowed to fail in our capitalist market.

Uh oh Mindy, you got pwned!
Seriously though, nicely stated Lauren Ober.

ZOMG a fund raising letter!!!1111 I think you should totally make this your cause. There are lot of issues today, but a fund raising letter!! I can't believe that it can happen in a state like Vermont. This is soooo outrageous. This is SRS. TOTALLY SRS. For realz!!!

Am I supposed to feel bad for you? Why can't you cough up the hundred bucks you owe?

How much was the ticket to Africa?

Have a Tums, Haik.

You don't have to feel bad for Lauren to wonder why Fletcher Allen would spend money to print a fundraising letter and then mail it to someone they've sent to collections. And who still owes them money. It doesn't really make sense. Which, I think, is her point.

what a wonderful look at the idea of "mass mail" just proves that we are getting farther and farther from "personal" attention!

Haik- Thank you for your thoughtful question regarding the cost of my airfare to Africa. In fact, that ticket was completely covered by the Church of Jehovah's Worshipful Converters and Tambourine Bangers, of which I am a member. I was going to the Dark Continent to participate in a mission trip called "Finding Jesus in the Jungle: Bringing Christ to the Heathens and Loving It!" True, I nearly died when I was there. But seeing the looks on those sniffling, naked children's faces when I gave them each a pocket Old Testament and a life-sized crucifix made it all worth it.

There's nothing to wonder about Cathy. They obviously didn't cross reference their fundraising and collections lists. Or if they had, they didn't since Lauren Ober landed on both of them. How cost effective would it be for them to do that on an up to the minute basis? Not very. It's also not impossible that one might owe and still give. It's only $100. Many people would love to only owe the hospital $100.

You should pay your bill and stop 'bellyaching' Ober.

Nice. The trolls never disappoint!

Wow, they don't cross-reference the fundraising database with the accounts receivable database? I've NEVER HEARD OF THAT IN MY LIFE (except for every single other hospital in existence)

except for every single other hospital in existence

You've personally heard of that happening at every onther hospital in existence?

Somehow I don't believe you.

I've had this same experience with three of them (never went to collections, just had outstanding bills). If you know of one that doesn't do this, let us all know.

The point is that this is standard practice, but I appreciate the whole "first halting steps into the real world" theme of the post, it gave me a chuckle.

Dear Jimmy,

Don't take offense at Haik's comment. He hates hyperbole more than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. Never exaggerate within reading distance of Haik or his head will pop off and roll into the sewer.

Nice imagery. My head in the sewer. As if to say I have shit for brains. Not a very thinly veiled insult.

You are mean, Lauren Ober. Mean and obnoxious.

Wait a minute. Damn it Jimmy- are you saying it's common for hospitals not to cross reference? 'Cause I agree with that. Damn it Ober! I'm sorry I said you're mean! You just hurt my feelings. That's a damn harsh image you projected there. My head in the fucking sewer! What is that? Jesus! Do I deserve that? I'm sorry, but I don't think the post is cute. Yeah yeah I get it. Big 'ol dumb instition tryin' to bleed a stone, and looked how mixed up they are. Gol-ley! Trying to glom on to the health care debate while you're at it and a totally unrelated, unhelpful way too. The answer is obvious. There's no mystery. It's not funny, and your advertising of your petty debt to them is also embarassing. I don't want to know about your debt to the hospital, let alone what you owe them for curing...

Whatever. You're a good writer. I gotta go.

Yes that is what I was saying. Fletcher Allen Accounts Receivable is not Fletcher Allen fundraising. It would cost dramatically more to exclude those who owe the hospital money than it does to simply send them the letter and let them throw it out. And as you pointed out, some people who owe the hospital money would still like to donate.

As other comments have pointed out, most people know that this is the way it works. There is nothing remotely blog-worthy about it.

Seven Days employees seem to spend a lot of time writing about how poor they are. (Lauren and Cathy to name a couple in recent memory.) Maybe it's time to pay them more.

Or, just stop whining and pay their bills.

What is this, pick on the clever lesbians day? Jeez louise.

Every day ridiculous blog posts get published is "pick on ridiculous blog posts" day. It doesn't matter who writes them.

Dear Cathy,

Thank you for outing me.

Dear "Jimmy,"

Thank you for upping our page views.

"Ober and out." heh.

Lauren, You are the epitome of what is wrong with this country. It is through the generosity of people who donate their hard earned money that hospitals can offer many of the services that you so cynically say you appreciate. If it were up to idiots like you our taxes would be in the 90% range and the government would take care of all our needs. God help us - thanks to Osama, I mean Obama - that is where we are headed. Try living in a country where the government provides everything and the suicide rate skyrockets because people have no sense of self-worth due to taking no personal responsibility for anything. Why should they have to when Big Government will do it all for them?
Stop whining and try throwing the letter in the trash.
On the other hand, some day when a loved one is critically ill and dies as you watch, you'll appreciate the quality of care that will be there when you need it. Then you will understand what philanthropy is all 'cause you want to not being forced to (by government through taxes).

how about taking your bitching to the financial dept and not the ceo. she has enough on her plate. and seriously, if all you owe is 100$ consider yourself lucky and just pay up. i would love to see you try and do her job...

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684