Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My Personal Healthcare Cost Saga

While on vacation July 5th in Virginia Beach , my youngest son fell from a piece of playground equipment and broke both bones in his right forearm. First I want to thank Virginia Beach General Hospital, Dr. Williamson, a great orthopedic trauma doc, the ambulance and EMT techs that responded, and most certainly my employer. All of the above performed in the most exemplary and professional manner I could ever hope for or imagine. My son, Isacc, is almost fully recovered. His cast came off last week and he is a third of the way through his three week "sling" period.

Then came the medical bills. This is not going to be a sob story about how I got shafted. Quite the contrary, as my gratitude, expressed above, may indicate, my employer provides generous medical benefits. They came through for me with flying colors. My company is self-insured and the coverage is administered by one of the best known providers of such services in the industry.

But those bills! I will describe the hospital charges as the prime (largest) example, but the bills for the other services were handled in a similar manner. Isaac's hospital stay was roughly 20 hours from about 5pm on Tuesday to about 1pm on Wednesday. The stay included emergency room, X-ray services, an operating room since the arm was set, mercifully, under general anesthesia, recovery room, and patient bed for the night (morning, really). The bill was a little over $7300. Ouch, but not unexpected. I made a mental note that with deductible and coinsurance I was looking at a $1000 share of the total cost , but what followed was really unexpected - at least as a matter of degree.

I know these bills are negotiated downward by the insurance companies, but when I recieved the final bill from the hospital the insurance adjustment was over $5400! My employer and I were now being asked for just 26% of the original invoiced charges. Whoa! Needless to say I can hardly wait to write the check for my share of that after what I was prepared to pay.

I am grateful.

I also feel guilt-fed anger. What I realize is a Wal-mart part-time employee without benefits experiencing a similar situation could easily spend years paying off what ultimately amounted to nearly $10,000 in initial charges. A laborer in our booming residential construction industry could lose their car, their credit, or worse if suddenly facing such a large debt. What else I realize is I am a pink slip and a few months continuing benefits away from being just like them.

Unemployed and/or uninsured I could have been liable for 40 times the money I am paying now.

All I can think is something has to be WRONG with this situation! My whole life I have heard we live in the U.S.of A., the richest country in the world.

How can that be when so many must give so much for something so essential? And but for the grace of God...


At 4:45 PM, Blogger Vol Abroad said...

Yes, that's right. Something has to be done about this. I'm living in the UK, where my healthcare is covered, but I'm scared to death that I'm going to get sick or hurt, or whatever... come up with some pre-existing condition that will make me ridiculously expensive to cover and I'll never be able to go back to the US.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system. Health insurance is a major aspect to many.


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