Frankie Cook remembers last year’s car crash only in flashes.
She was driving a friend home from high school on a winding road outside Rome, Georgia. She saw standing water from a recent rain. She tried to slow down but lost control of her car on a big curve. “The car flipped about three times,” Frankie said. “We spun around and went off the side of this hill. My car was on its side, and the back end was crushed up into a tree.”
Frankie said the air bags deployed and both passengers were wearing seat belts, so she was left with just a headache when her father, Russell Cook, came to pick her up from the crash site.
Frankie, then a high school junior, worried she might have a concussion that could affect her performance on an upcoming Advanced Placement exam, so she and her father decided to stop by an urgent care center near their house to get her checked out. They didn’t make it past the front desk.
Frankie Cook was driving a friend home from high school when her car ran off a winding country road outside Rome, Georgia, flipped multiple times, and hit a tree. She wasn’t badly hurt, but her family quickly ran into another problem after she was turned away from an urgent care center for insurance reasons.(Russell Cook)
“‘We don’t take third-party insurance,’” Russell said the receptionist at Atrium Health Floyd Urgent Care Rome told him, though he wasn’t sure what she meant. “She told me, like, three times.”
The problem didn’t seem to be that the clinic lacked the medical expertise to evaluate Frankie. Rather, the Cooks seemed to be confronting a reimbursement policy that is often used by urgent care centers to avoid waiting for payments from car insurance settlements.
Russell was told to take Frankie to an emergency room, which by law must see all patients regardless of such issues. The nearest one, at Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center, was about a mile down the road and was owned by the same hospital system as the urgent care center.
There, Russell said, a doctor looked Frankie over “for just a few minutes,” did precautionary CT scans of her head and body, and sent her home with advice to “take some Tylenol” and rest. She did not have a concussion or serious head injury and was able to take her AP exam on time.
Then the bill came.
The Patient: Frankie Cook, 18, now a first-year college student from Rome, Georgia.
Medical Services: A medical evaluation and two CT scans.
Service Provider: Atrium Health Floyd, a hospital s …