Broke my collar now what?
September 5, 2011 12:23 AM   Subscribe

I think I just broke my clavicle. What's the cheapest way in NYC to deal with this?

Crashed my bike. Pretty sure my collar bone is broken. I've broken it before so I know what it feels and looks like. I'm going to go to the doctor's in the morning. The last time this happened I went to the ER, they xrayed me, gave me a $60 sling and some painkillers, told me to lay off it and charged me $5k. I'm sitting here in reasonable spirits all things considered so my question is what is the cheapest way to deal with this in NYC? Do I just call the hospital and try to make an appointment to avoid ER fees? What department? What hospital? No car was involved in the crash so it's not no fault. Basically my question is how do I avoid dealing with the ER here.
posted by nathancaswell to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Do you still have the sling? This might need to be set, and soon. You definitely don't want to have it re-broken in order to re-set and mend it. I think you can get away with tylenol and a sling for the night, then get to your regular doctor first thing.
posted by Gilbert at 12:37 AM on September 5, 2011

Broken bones are serious, as I'm sure that you know. Serious life threatening infections could set in. You could have slivers of the bone near major arteries (hence the x-ray). Perhaps you saw the news story of a man this week who could not afford to take care of his infected tooth. The infection spread and he died. That was this week.

I totally get that the cost is too high. It's unfair. It's indecent and inhumane . i get that. I was poor for a long time. I know. Here is what I recommend. Go to the ER. Forget about the price. Get yourself fixed. Pay what you can afford. If you can not afford to pay then just don't It will screw your credit rating for a while, sure - but are you worried about your health or are you worried about your credit rating? Which is really more important to you. It's not your fault that you are living in a country where basic health care is unaffordable. Get yourself to a hospital. Do it now. Get off the computer. Worry about the cost afterwards. You are not going to jail if you can't pay. Just go get yourself fixed .
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:42 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't have the sling still. I also don't have a regular doctor or insurance. Unfortunately. Hence the desire to avoid the ER. I fully plan on going to the doctor. I know I'm going to have to deal with radiology. Is ER my only option to get care?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:46 AM on September 5, 2011

Don't they have "doc-inna-box" places in New Your like they do out here on the West coast? Basically they're just walk in clinics that are sometimes open 24 hours. Thing is they will require payment before they see you - probably one or two hundred up front whereas the ER can either bill you and/or see you without payment up front.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:51 AM on September 5, 2011

The last time this happened I went to one of those private places, they took a look, said I had a deformity because a bone was clearly broken and sent me to the ER for xrays. So I'd rather skip that. How does one get into radiology without dealing with ER?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2011

Go to your regular Dr asap (or urgent care) he/she will order xrays & will send you to a lab to get them. Still $$, but less than the ER. Good luck & fast healing.
posted by TishSnave at 2:56 AM on September 5, 2011

My husband snapped a piece of his clavicle next to his shoulder. He needed surgery to fix it.

Go to the ER already. You won't know exactly what you've done until you've had x-rays, and on a federal holiday like Labor Day is today, the ER is probably your only bet until tomorrow at least. It really is better not to wait.

Take care of yourself now. Sort out the payment stuff later. Hospitals have people who can help you with that.
posted by zizzle at 3:31 AM on September 5, 2011

I actually think that it may be a Sternoclavicular dislocation rather than being broken. I guess I have to go the ER to get this figured out since I don't have a regular doctor. Lame.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:24 AM on September 5, 2011

If you go to a private hospital as opposed to "for profit", I think that they are more willing to use charity funds, etc. Depends on income, but I know that I've gone that route before. Catholic hospital.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:45 AM on September 5, 2011

i know nothing about NY geography, so you'll have the comb the results on your own, but a google search for nyc urgent care radiology gets some results.

here in the flyover states our urgent care facilities often have a lab and radiology in the back.
posted by nadawi at 7:08 AM on September 5, 2011

Totally lame, I agree.

If you are young you may want to look into getting the cheapest, crappiest major medical you can possibly get (my understanding is soon you'll be required to get insurance anyway, right? Because of the health care reform). Then get the accident rider (not sure what its formal name is). Basically, the rider is a great option for people whose #1 cause of healthcare is likely to be accidents. It covers up to $500/incident related to the accident. When I did this (in my early 30s) the rider was very cheap, but that may have been because I haven't been in many accidents. All told, including a dental rider, my total cost was something like $120/month. If you're young, don't use meds, and don't have a history of medical problems, you may be able to get coverage for less than you'd think.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:49 AM on September 5, 2011

I recently had to go to the ER and they told me to call the billing dept. when I received my bill and tell them my money situation. They will send you a form to fill out for medical assistance. You may not have to pay a cent. I had a $25,000 emergency surgery almost wiped out.

Go to the doctor!
posted by futz at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2011

IANYD and can't speak to your situation, but clavicle fractures are not the life-threatening injury that some here have made them out to be. They typically only require a sling and orthopedic follow-up, because they typically heal on their own even if they are displaced fractures, as you experienced. Rarely do they require surgery, that is only for very severe fractures.

An urgent care should be able to take care of this as all it would likely require is an x-ray (not an outpatient clinic or one of those minute clinics in the grocery store, an urgent care - they have x-rays). However, if you have significant chest trauma and might have fractured your sternum or anything in your torso other than your clavicle, don't go to an urgent care because they could just end up sending you over to the ER for CT scans etc which can't be done typically from an urgent care setting.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

IANAD and this is a very late followup but in my experience treehorn+bunny is correct. As an uninsured young bike racer for many years, woo yes, I've had my share of fractured clavicles.

Some of the responses above maybe coming from regional differences and general misunderstanding of how severe a fractured clavicle really is. It's a floating bone, so it's difficult to stabilize anyhow, and there's not much you can do for it. It's like having broken ribs, where your general diagnosis is going to be rest+time with a healthy dose of HTFU.

In Western Europe (ironically, where socialized medicine is common) orthos will generally opt for more invasive treatment for fractured clavicles (meaning: surgery + pins)

In the US, unless the fracture is quite severe, like threatening-to-poke-through-the-skin severe, which I guarantee you'd have noticed, orthos generally will not do anything at all besides xray it, say "yep it's broken", prescribe pain meds and a figure-8 harness, and send you home.

They will also drastically overcharge you for the xrays, the pain meds and the figure 8 until you point out that you're uninsured and broke, at which point they'll send you to the nice ladies in the billing department where they'll reduce the charges and put you on a payment plan.

I speak from experience and hope this helps.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2011

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