Need foot surgery, no insurance — what next?

“I fainted due to my blood pressure dropping and in the process I fractured my foot (Lis franc fracture).

I was transported to the hospital by ambulance. After some tests, they found that my blood pressure drop was due to being dehydrated. After a CT scan, they found the fracture and said that they were keeping me overnight because I needed surgery and wanted to make sure my blood pressure would stabilize. 

I have no insurance which the hospital knew, however the doctor said that I needed surgery to repair the fracture.  That following morning, the orthopedic doctor said they could not operate on it for about a week due to the swelling.  I mentioned again that I did not have insurance and he told me that I would still get the surgery. 

My discharge papers had the surgeon listed.  I made an appointment with the surgeon so they could see if I was ready for the surgery. When I arrived at their office, they told me that I needed to get insurance in order to get surgery. The hospital’s financial counselor told me that it was my responsibility to find a surgeon to perform the surgery. 

The state told me I would not qualify for Medicaid. I am unemployed, therefore I am sitting here unable to walk, in pain, and frustrated. 

Is the hospital responsible to do the surgery since they said they would?  Or is there an organization that would provide low or no cost assistance?“

Hobbled in Michigan


Dear Hobbled in Michigan,

My best suggestion for you is to look for a low-cost or sliding scale clinic in Michigan; try Free Medical Search or NeedyMeds directory of free or low cost clinics in Michigan.  The clinic itself won’t do surgery, but they would be able to help you find a way to get the surgery you need.  This could solve your problem of finding a surgeon, which would answer the hospital financial counselor’s question.

I would also go back to the hospital where you had your overnight stay.  All hospitals have Patient Assistance programs for low-income people who cannot afford services.  They will have an application process which will ask for your income, employment, etc.  The criteria for these programs vary from one hospital to another, but it is definitely worth your time to check on this.

It seems unwise to wait until January 1, 2014 when you could enroll in Medicaid.  Michigan is “expanding” Medicaid on January 1 to include all low-income people, but you won’t qualify until this change occurs.  You might want to get an application underway for Medicaid, in the meantime.

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Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.