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Posted by Ken Kurtis on January 11, 2006 at 14:18:57:

I can shed a little light on this as I was in Cozumel last March, had one of the divers in my group get bent, and went with her to the Chamber. I think some of what you see going on now is a direct fallout from our case, as we took action to make sure the higher-ups at D.A.N. were aware of what was going on.

The short version is that this is a pissing match between SSS and D.A.N. with injured divers caught in the middle. Perosnally, I lay the blame at the feet of SSS.

When we got to the Cozumel Chamber (her symptoms were fairly mild) they did the eval, decide she needed to be put in and asked about insurance. We dutifully produced her D.A.N. card and they immediately said they'd need to charge a $2500 "deposit" to her credit card. (Bear in mind, this was almost one year ago.)They explained that they were having problems with D.A.N. and they were sorry, etc., etc.

In the course of all of this, they also said they had contacted D.A.N. about our specific case and that D.A.N. wouldn't give them assurances about payment. We checked later and D.A.N. has no record of any such call and, in fact, Dan Orr personally told me that had they been aware of what was going on, they would have immediately wired money down directly to SSS to get the treatment going, and then deal with the fallout later.

SSS charged her card down in Cozumel and, once we were back in the states, D.A.N. pretty quickly (within a week) reimbursed her, with apologies, explaining the billing problems.

Interestingly, I asked the chamber tech we were dealing with what they would do if she couldn't have produced a credit card for the depsoit. He hemmed and hawed for a minute and said that, in an emergency, they would treat the diver anyhow. I aksed him if my conscious, breathing diver, whose symptoms were tingling and numbness in her arm, qualified as an emergency. He hemmed and hawed again and said, "Yes."

So the bottom line seems to be that they would have treated her regardless but they're trying to strongarm the diver first &/or we would have to have raised a stink. On the other hand, if they're not "guaranteed" payment, you have to wonder if that might affect their diagnosis in milder cases.

And while we were there at the end of her treatment, there was a guy coming in (a local) for what they told us was something like his 50th treatment in 6 months. I'm not a Hyperbaric tech, but I think the common wisdom is that after 6 or 7 treatments, you've pretty much gotten all the benefit you will. Now whether that reflects their profit motive at work or not, I have no direct knowledge. But it causes you to wonder.

I have discussed this somewhat extensively with Dan Orr at D.A.N. (my injured diver has had similar conversations - she's fine BTW), both on the phone and at DEMA. As an instructor and store owner, as well as someone who works very closely with the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber here in L.A., the last thing we want as a diving community is for divers to put off or avoid treatment because they don't think they can afford it.

As I understand it from D.A.N., the fees that SSS charges seem higher than what would be "standard and customary" (but I don't have secific numbers). On top of that, after D.A.N. felt they had agreed upon a rate, that rate went up &/or there were other charges tacked on. So I think the D.A.N. position is that they feel SSS is sort of flim-flamming divers and the insuance companies with the rates.

I have no knowledge as to how others insurance compnaies are dealing with this or why it should only be D.A.N. that has this problem with SSS. I also got a copy of the e-mail and it seemed to me to be more aimed at smearing D.A.N. than it really was an attempt to alert the dive community to a problem. Seem to me th eintent of the e-mail is to get divers to call D.A.N. in a rage and demand that they pass SSS. Ironically, SSS still lists D.A.N. America on their website.

No matter how cut it, it stinks. Divers health should not become a political football. Shame on those who would play with that issue for their own gain.



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