The irony here is that reading this article will likely make you sick enough to need a doctor…
Because my insurance company at the time has decided, after the fact, to NOT cover the routine surgery I needed last year, or the endoscopy, or the tests needed beforehand, I’m facing similar bills. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for people facing extraordinary medical procedures.
In America, the fact that health care — the life or death — of its citizens is for-profit business, chills me to the bone. It seems inconceivable that something so viciously cruel and inhumane is institutionalized the way it is. In the eyes of the health care industry (not the doctors & nurses, but the business people running it) we are pigs for slaughter, valuable only for how much bacon we can make. It is a barbaric system.
Future generations, if there are any, will condemn us for this just the same way we condemn past generations for condoning and institutionalizing human slavery.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us
When Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.
Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.
Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children.
About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”
Nonetheless, Sean was held for about 90 minutes in a reception area, she says, because the hospital could not confirm that the check had cleared. Sean was allowed to see the doctor only after he advanced MD Anderson $7,500 from his credit card. The hospital says there was nothing unusual about how Sean was kept waiting. According to MD Anderson communications manager Julie Penne, “Asking for advance payment for services is a common, if unfortunate, situation that confronts hospitals all over the United States.”
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 42. Total cost, in advance, for Sean’s treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy: $83,900. Charges for blood and lab tests amounted to more than $15,000; with Medicare, they would have cost a few hundred dollars
The total cost, in advance, for Sean to get his treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy was $83,900.