Denied at Vision Center due to racial discrimination?

by A
(Kalamazoo, MI)

I was visiting Las Vegas for the 4th of July, when I returned home to Kalamazoo, MI my eye was killing me. It was extremely sensitive to light, very painful, and I had a ton of pressure behind my right eye. I live alone, so I created a patch out of paper towel, covered it with sunglasses, and drove to the closest optometrist.

I thought I had cut my eyeball with my contact or something. I informed the clerk I had just returned from Las Vegas, I lost my wallet in the airport, I had insurance (medical & vision), and my eye was killing me. I had been at the facility once before a few years back, so I did not have any negative history with them.

The lady went and talked to the doc and I was told since I didn't have the $35 office visit fee I could not be seen. I asked if I could be billed, they said no. I asked if I could personally talk to the doctor to attempt to explain why I didn't have $35 at the time. She went back and came forward and said the doctor didn't want to talk to me.

I couldn't understand why the office staff was being so cold to my issue. Then the office manager said, its not you, it's other people... what does that mean? Other black people?

I am starting to feel like they were discriminating against me because I was black. Did they think because I was black I couldn't afford the $35 fee and I would NOT pay them? I make over $90K/year, I was just in a bad situation after losing my wallet at the Las Vegas airport.

I later went to a different Vision Center, where they saw me with NO issue. They billed my Medical insurance and I had NO out of pocket costs. The eye doc diagnosed me with Uveitis. Without proper treatment, I could have lost all vision within my right eye - leaving me 50% blind.

So, the fact that this issue could have been covered by my Medical insurance deeply confuses me on why I was turned away from the first place. It's clear that I was not only refused care, I was discriminated against because of my race. Can I do anything about this? File a lawsuit, report them, or file a complain? It's just not right. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Denied at Vision Center due to racial discrimination?":

A (Kalamazoo, MI):

It's pretty simple. Whether black, white, yellow, or green, you didn't have the $35.00 to pay for the exam. It's hard to believe a person making over ninety thousand dollars a year wouldn't be able to come up with $35.00 for an office visit, whether that person lost his or her wallet or not.

Regardless, the doctor had a legal right not to accept your insurance. The doctor is a businessperson. As such, he or she has a right to demand payment for services, and can demand that payment be made in advance of services.

You may have read too much into the clerk's statement. When she said ..."it's not you, it's other people" the logical inference would have been those "other people" she referred to were likely people like you who couldn't, and some that didn't pay.

Fortunately, your vision problem was corrected before you suffered a permanent injury. That's good news.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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