I’m not one to complain about much. At least I don’t feel like I do. Don’t get me wrong…I work in the television industry so there is PLENTY to whine about (just ask us), but for the most part? I’ve been fairly happy with the cards I’ve been dealt. But there are some things in this world that just aren’t ok and this little blog here is my place where I can do some venting so…it’s time to do so.
On February 9th, 2016, I suffered some major discomfort after spending the night at my parents’ home in Zanesville, OH. Having experienced kidney stones before, I knew what the problem was but in this case, unlike my other 2 cases, the pain that had ebbed & flowed before was not ebbing OR flowing. Instead it was a sharp pain that didn’t subside from 7am until I checked into the hospital at around 8:30am. Needless to say, when my parents walked me through the emergency room doors, I knew I was gonna be seeing a hefty bill. As we all know, being sick in America almost guarantees that you are gonna be leaving A) probably still sick but with the hope that maybe they can fix you and B) broke. So I went into the hospital knowing what my condition was and also knowing that it was gonna cost me a pretty penny.
Now…I don’t know what a pretty penny is to you but in my mind? A pretty penny for this particular visit was probably around a couple thousand dollars. I mean…I knew what the problem was and I knew what kind of medication I needed, so it seemed to reason that once I got into the hospital they could administer the pain relief I needed, give me a prescription for something that could ease the pain until I passed the stone and then we could all resume our lives. So I was admitted into the hospital where I was asked my name and social security number about 10 times (don’t they have technology that can transfer this information along through separate in-house applications?), brought to a room and given fluids and pain relief. But then a few other people started showing up and asking me questions. And then someone else showed up and wanted to get a CT scan…just to be certain that all it was was kidney stones. So…seeing as how I’m not a doctor…I allowed them to do it without really thinking about the financial ramifications of what they were doing. At no time did anyone say anything to me about the cost of having a Dr. Backus come into my room and ask me a couple questions nor did anyone mention the average cost of a CT scan. So…there I was, in pain in the hospital and next thing I know I’m being carted down the hallway (still in pain) and put on a CT scan table. A few minutes later, all done! Back to my room to wait to see if the pain relief they were giving me would ever take. Finally…maybe 20 minutes later, the pain subsided. It was a welcome relief to be able to breath again and not have pain shooting through my lower back and abdomen.
First things first BEFORE I begin this rant…the nurses and caregivers at Genesis Healthcare in Zanesville were all very nice and seemed qualified to do their jobs. There is no doubt in my mind that they all want to take care of whatever issue you have and they are professional about it. I am not upset with the care or the way they went about it at all (well…except for the asking of the general information WAY too many times).
Here’s what I’m upset about and the purpose of this post…
In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This, in essence, declared that we ALL, as Americans, had to have healthcare insurance. Which is fine by me. Honestly…I agree that we SHOULD have insurance and I would like to think that everyone in the insurance industry and the healthcare industry has our health in mind. But let’s be honest. That’s not the case. Healthcare insurance is big business! It generates billions of dollar a year. And in doing so, has basically put a stranglehold on those who can’t pay for a decent plan that can help in situations like the one I had on February 9th. So…let’s cut to the chase.
The total bill for my 2 hour maximum visit to Genesis Healthcare Center came to $4,993.11. The visit by Dr. Backus cost me $356. And some other bill came in that was $352 and I don’t even know what it is for. It says it’s for a ER department visit level 4…whatever that is. So I’m out $5,701.11. My insurance, which is admittedly a high deductible Humana policy, runs me around $800 a month. This, in effect, got me $998.60 towards the payment of this visit. So…now I’m down to $4,602.51. For a 2 hour visit. For a kidney stone.
When I get the bill, I damn near fainted (which would have probably sent me to the hospital with a concussion and ANOTHER CT scan which would have possibly pushed me past my deductible so…THAT might have worked out actually). Funny thing was…the first bill only came as a lump sum. No itemized list of services, no explanation of the bill, nothing. So I called and had them send me an itemized bill. According to the Healthcare Bluebook, a CT abdominal-pelvis scan without contrast SHOULD cost $625. In MY particular case, Genesis has decided that it should cost $3,646.67. This is a vast difference of $3,021.67.
So what I’m saying here is this…what the healthcare and insurance industries are effectively doing is making it so expensive to use their services, that the middle class won’t go to the hospital. I KNEW what my problem was and they ripped me off for over $5,000. Imagine if I didn’t know? What if I had gone in there with a pain in my leg or neck or whatever? They would have done scans and images and multiple doctors would have walked in and out of my room, all charging me for their brief time. And then there would be more visits and more doctors and eventually…I would meet my deductible and then the insurance company would be forced to pay for whatever ailment I have and once it was cleared? My premiums will go up even more and more until finally it gets to the point where it’s hopeless. I am an independent contractor. I don’t have the ability to pay for a healthcare plan that large corporations pay for individual or family healthcare plans.
In wrapping up this diatribe, I called Genesis and was ready to pay off my entire bill provided they charge me the Bluebook cost of the CT scan. In total, that bill would be $1,971.44 without the other bills of $356 and $352. So…a couple thousand bucks. They said no. If I paid off my bill, in its entirety, right then & there over the phone, they would cut 20% off the total. I said no. If they aren’t willing to see how they are gouging me, then they will get their payments in $50 increments over the next 6 years. It’s unbelievable how greedy this whole exchange is. I left there feeling better…sure. But $6,000 better? Somehow I don’t think so. And the kicker is? I passed the stone the very next day.
So…my lesson is learned. NEVER simply accept whatever the doctors and nurses at a hospital tell you. Always question and ask what the cost will be. Unless I am unconscious and unable to speak, I will be very aware that the people in the room with me aren’t there to help me or make me feel better. They are basically there to make money. I know that’s not WHY they got into the healthcare business, however that is the place we are in today. Make the money and take the money any way you can. It’s unfortunate but that is just the way it is. And now I’m off to the post office to mail in my monthly $50…