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Surprised? No. Depressed? Yes. … The Despicable M.D. Anderson

They’re a great hospital — they saved my mom’s life twice! But, my parents had (and still have) fantastic health insurance. They were never faced with this scenario. (Picture doctors walking around like gods, saving lives and graciously accepting thanks …. while clerks and secretaries screen the patients, sweeping the rabble from the door)

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

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.”

There aren’t very many families that could scrape up $84,000 in cash like that. I guess the rest just have to drive back home with their tumors. Who comes up with a health care system like this?


Part One. Assuming I get the strength to read more of the article.

28 Responses

  1. I read earlier today off another feed, it was pretty sickening.

  2. Did I mention that my former colleague’s husband spent 4 hours in the hospital for a hernia operation and when they got the bill it was $80,000? So, she calls the insurance company and says there must be some kind of mistake. He wasn’t in the hospital long enough to get a lovely gourmet meal. The insurance company told her there WAS a mistake. It was supposed to be $40,000. She was still gobsmacked but I don’t know how you say obsmacked in French because ex-colleague was French and that kind of bill is insane in France. It just doesn’t happen.
    Then there was the time right after my layoff when the employee benefits company lost my paperwork and I needed to get some prescriptions filled. That is when I fou d out that every pharmacy ine area was charging a different price and I was advised to”shop around” to get the best. Sometimes the prices differed by hundreds of dollars, which is beyond ridiculous. So, that’s your job when you don’t have insurance. You spend your time “shopping around”. How productive.

  3. It is hard to believe [but true] that insurance companies are actually subsidized by business, who then charge much higher prices to the un-insured…only in America…really, only in America.

  4. Working in health care, I can tell you that it’s a pretty expensive business to run…between all the instrumentation – lab, or’s, radiology – and, what I’m most familiar with – IT – which is just getting more expensive every day – the demand for the information in a fast, secure, and accessible environment – not cheap.

    Does this justify the cost of an aspirin as illustrated in this article? I don’t know…but between the technologists, NP’s, etc salaries, cost of benefits, physical plant, so on and so on, it’s a pricey business for sure.

    I myself received a pretty hefty bill this year for my mastectomies and had to twist arms to get on a reasonable payment plan – and I’m talking about my employer here!

    There is also a lot of waste and fraud associated with health care. And the regulations that keep coming down don’t make that easier either.

    I’m sure there has to be some answers, but one thing I do know – Obamacare is only going to make it worse.

    • singlepayer

    • sorry, dm, but you and the other industry spokes models have been exposed. so, stfu.

      • Hardly anyone’s spokes model…just a grunt like everybody else around here. However, I can provide some food for thought…wasn’t trying to justify, agree or disagree…just putting some FACTS out there…so, unless you have a vast array of experience in this industry, I would suggest you might want to think about what’s presented rather than provide an ever enlightening and positive contribution of STFU…so very clever and original, paul j.

  5. My significant other runs the finance and billing for a group of specialist surgeons. The hospital where they practice is rated number one in the country in their specialty. One of the doctors does get some patients who make similar upfront cash payments. Those making such cash payments are generally extremely rich, foreign, and quite often prominent.

    Even American billionaires don’t do this. One , as was his right, paid for his hospitalization through Medicare and was a major pain in the butt to the staff. Another, commandeered the surgeon’s office so he could continue his business while his wife was being operated on He, actually, was the nicer guy.

    Many, but not all, of the celebrities and entertainers were actually surprisingly nice people and went out of their way to be nice to the staff. Others did not fit that bill.

    Some people actually get treated for free but the only individual I know of who was knowingly treated for free by an informed decision made in advance was Mother Theresa.

    I doubt if the hospital in the story what have treated even Mother Theresa for free.

  6. A friend mentioned being asked if she needed an aspirin in the hospital while recovering after giving birth. She said no, but the nurse placed one on the side table, ‘just in case.” Took the time to add it to her bill, too. $9 per aspirin, and her baby is now in his mid-20s. This same hospital is renovating so it can become the equivalent of a 5-star hotel. It’s associated with a private university that also has an upscale shopping center. I interviewed at the comptroller’s office and was told that their clinic was a “loss leader.” Please explain?. Well, we get them in the door via the clinic and then into the hospital where we can start charging them the big bucks.

    This was in the early 80s. Never heard back from the corporation after that interview. Unfortunately, they bought up the clinic I used, which was much better than theirs, in my experience.

  7. I had to visit a specialist out side of one of the two insurance providers network. What a pain. I continued the treatments at an in network provider. Anyway the providers had nothing good to say about ant health insurance as it is presently administered.

    Obama must have gotten a healthy chunk of under table cash and a promise of a corner office with a spectacular view for screwing us over. Nancy probably got a chew toy and Harry a bobble head sprots figure doll.

    Democrats: We suck harder so the republicans don’t have to.

    • As BORomneycare takes deeper hold, I wonder if today’s and tomorrow’s young people will begin figuring out how to make little enough money and accumulate few enough assets and personal effects so they can stay truthfully at or below the Medicaide Cutoff Line.

      • I tell them to learn a foreign language so they can bail before the Obama/Romney/Wall Street troika closes the borders. Preferably to a country that doesn’t have extradition laws to the U S.

        • That will help a few. It won’t help many. How many American young people will an overcrowded rest-of-the-world permit to enter their countries?
          Most people will be forced to stay here. And then either surrender in place or fight in place, one way or another. The Germany-Austria-Switzerland escape hatch will exist for academically gifted German-fluent young people . . . of whom there are not very many.

  8. here’s an idea, blow up what passes for a medical system we now have and model a new healthcare system on what has worked everywhere else in the rest fo the industrialized world. no more excuses.

  9. I’ve spent the last year fighting Stage IV diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. (Hence the long absence from The Confluence.) I got sick 5 months after Medicare kicked in. I’d be dead now without it. I don’t live far from Houston and have relatives there who kept insisting I go to MD Anderson, but I believe I got competent care at Ochsner here in Louisiana. I’m in remission. I’m a profit center for Ochsner who’s made >$250K on me so far. The Leukemia/Lymphoma paid most of the coinsurance. Even with Medicare, Ochsner turned me over to a collection agency for about $1K in miscellaneous charges. I say, come after me. I’ve been down so long I don’t have anything left to grab between working as a precariat 15+ years (software developer a/k/a glorified fruit picker) and Katrina wiping me out. Since the so-called “nanny state” will only advise me to call 1-800-BOO-HOOO with my sob story, it’s hard not to feel eschatological dread after the hammering working stiffs have taken these last two decades. Sheesh! I’m poorer than my blue collar parents were at my age, and neither of them had a college education. I had never been sick in my life. I’m convinced the stress of the last two decades gave me cancer. This economy is literally killing people.

    • Sharon, I had no idea you were sick. I hope your remission lasts until you are about 105. Then you’ll say that you would have lived longer if you had just taken better care of yourself.
      I think my point about it being the end is I don’t think the current capitalist system can last too much longer. The internal mechanisms are chaotic. It’s evolving so rapidly and seemingly with one goal in mind- wealth accumulation for the already wealthy. The most recent report from Walmart is sort of the canary in the coal mine. There’s no more oxygen left in this economy. We have two choices: 1) get tough with the wealthy and stick up for ourselves or 2.) watch the system collapse. I think when the health care insurance reform thing kicks in next year in the absence of cost controls, we may see a system close to collapse. There will be too many people with collection agencies on their backs and nowhere to turn.

      • I tried to email you privately about my situation, RD, but the email link to you might be obsolete. Can’t say. It got bounced back. I wanted to tell you a few things about daughter Christina, who’s one of those surplus PhD in life sciences. She did work briefly as a postdoc at Duke, but left to take care of me. She’s sent out 100s of CVs and getting almost nothing back. So discouraging. This woman has a great CV and her dissertation is being offered as a textbook on Amazon and several other places. She had no idea anyone would do this. She thought it was a hoax at first and she and I had a blast writing bogus reviews. But she’s an expert in an emerging research field where there’s a need for info. Funny how that doesn’t seem to count for much in terms of employability.

        Check it out.

        To save my sanity, I started my own blog last week. Nothing topical and information rich like yours, just some of my various adventures and thoughts. I put The Confluence on my short list. It’s called Algonquin on the Bayou. (http://algonquinonthebayou.blogspot.com/)

      • Heck, I got so preoccupied with me, me, me that I forgot my primary reason for commenting. I wanted to thank you for your kindness. You’re the greatest!

  10. But, but, but…..the USA is the greatest country in the history of the world; it’s “exceptional” !!


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