Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Monday, July 30, 2012


When my husband called me and said in a strained voice, "I think I need to go to the emergency room," I knew he was in serious pain.  This is the man who took one pain pill after getting all four wisdom teeth cranked out of his head.  The same guy who busted his ankle so badly it looked like a sick version of dead man make up, and refused to be taken to a doctor, saying, "I can still walk on it." Yeah, barely, and you look silly trying, I thought to myself.


As Kyle's birth approached, Jonathan and I talked a lot about what to do regarding insurance.  Since returning from Mexico in the late summer of '10, we had been unable to buy any stateside insurance of our own.  During our time in Mexico, we were covered by an international plan we had found online.  In order for that to be valid, we had to spend more time per year outside of the States than in.  So, of course, we had to switch insurance at the beginning of '11.  We contacted a number of different insurance providers but no one would sell us a policy since I was already pregnant.  While I do understand why they do it this way, it is still extremely frustrating when you have no other choice.  The beginning of 2011, when I was about 32 weeks pregnant, coverage began for me on my dad's insurance policy.  I started going to the doctor then and all of that was covered.  We knew Kyle would be covered by my dad's policy for up to two days after his birth.  But, since I had so little prenatal care and we qualified for Medicaid, we determined that the wisest thing to do was get some "back up" help for Kyle's birth.  I cried as I called to figure out how to get on Medicaid.  I hated having to depend on the government for my baby and I hated feeling like I was left with no other option.

After Kyle was born and deemed healthy by our pediatrician, we took him off Medicaid as soon as we could.  The look on the woman's face in the Medicaid office said, "No one ever does this."  In fact, she looked us in the eye and asked why we wanted to take him off of government assistance.  She assured us he qualified for the rest of the year and likely the next.  But, our answer was simple; we wanted to buy our own insurance and we wanted to be responsible for ourselves.  Head shaking, she conceded.

Unfortunately, since we couldn't get insurance through a group or a business, buying it individually was unreasonably expensive.  We opted for the lowest deductible for which we could afford to pay the premium.  It is a pathetic plan which basically covers catastrophic injuries and we still pay a considerable amount each month for that.  I am not complaining about not having tons of money or having to pay for ourselves.  I think we function fine on our income and we don't have trouble paying our bills.  I am complaining that we can't afford to buy any decent insurance because it is so ridiculously expensive.  It is pathetic that we could so easily qualify for food stamps, government funded health care, and whatever other kinds of assistance we might decide we needed.  We don't want the government to pay for us but the cost of healthcare is such that we can't even begin to afford the bills for something as seemingly routine as a kidney stone.

Knowing that a visit to the ER would certainly cost more than we really wanted to spend, but not seeing any other option with a groaning man in the car beside me, I drove him there last month per his request.  His stay was short; they took his temp, blood pressure, had him rate his pain and asked him a few other questions.  We walked back to a room where he laid on a bed, still grunting and groaning to keep from screaming and crying.  The nurse came in, asked him what was wrong, then left to get some drugs.  She came back, hooked up the drugs, the doctor came in and said hi.  Once the drugs kicked in, they wheeled him down for a CT scan.  Having seen a CT scan bill of my own the year before, I knew that wouldn't be cheap.  But, what other option did we have?  They wheeled him back five minutes later, we waited a minute before the doctor came back in.  He told us the stone had already moved to the bladder and he shouldn't feel anymore pain until he passed it.  He didn't prescribe any drugs and told us if Jonathan had any more pain to "come back."  The nurse walked in, took his IV out and we were on our way.  An hour and a half, tops.  Probably closer to an hour.  I hoped the bill would be around a $1,000.  I still cringed at the thought of it, and I still think $1,000 is an unreasonable amount to pay for an hours worth of care but, whatever.

I had absolutely no idea the hospital bill alone would be nearly $4,000.  The physician's bill was an additional $1.000.  Then the CT scan should've been the least of my worries at a lousy $500.  How can it possibly cost this much to get an IV, a pat on the back and a picture of your insides?  Good thing he didn't have any more pain, and good thing we didn't "go back" or we'd be doubly in the hole.  The system is so broken.  I cannot understand where the problem is or what the solution should be.  But, it is so absurd. $5,500 to see a doctor for an hour?  Unreasonable.  Ridiculous.  Absolutely infuriating.

Of course we will go to the finance office.  Of course we will tell them that we just can't pay this bill and we can't make payments either.  We can't have debt when we leave for Africa and we're hoping that will be in about five months.  And I figure, or at least hope, that they will cut the bill into quarters and let us pay a "reasonable" amount.  But, if we had "good" insurance or if we were on Medicaid or if we had a higher income, they would get their five thousand dollars and no one would think a thing about it.  And that is why the system is broken.


1 comment:

  1. I just read this entry as I found your blog from a friend. I cannot even believe this story. And I totally agree with you. It is so broken. Your story is soooooo sad and just shows you how bad our healthcare system is a complete mess.
    You all are amazing for all that you are doing!! I will pray for you daily. Good luck with all your work.