Ain’t Nothin Affordable About Health Care

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I’ve been blogging for about a year and have yet to discuss politics. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Any political affiliations aside, I am firmly of the belief that the system as a whole is so broken it doesn’t much matter which party is in control. Sadly, that isn’t likely to change anytime soon either. One of the current hot button topics is, of course, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or what’s most commonly referred to as ObamaCare. Democrats claim it’s our savior. Republicans swear it’s the devil. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Here’s what I know. The flaws in the United States health care system go way beyond who’s insured and who’s not.

 

I don’t want to be guilty of any HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations so I’ll just tell you a member of my family had an appendectomy. This would have been about twenty-five years ago. The cost of the operation was around $3,000. I had an appendectomy as well. Mine was four or five years ago and it was a little over $40,000. I challenge you to come up with another good or service with a price that has skyrocketed that much in a single generation. My hospital stay alone was north of $22,000 and I only occupied a bed for about thirty-six hours. That’s roughly $600 an hour for some bad food and one of the worst experiences of my life. Thankfully, most of the cost was covered by insurance. That doesn’t make the price tag any less ridiculous.

 

I’ve always been pretty healthy and foolishly assumed I was done with surgeries for a while. Then I went and got myself a hernia. I wrote about that experience in a previous blog post titled Is That a Hernia in Your Pocket? I ended up back on the table, this time as an outpatient. My surgery was at seven in the morning and I was home three hours later. I’d pretty much resumed normal activities by the time the bills started coming in, which they most certainly did.

 

medical billsI have two different insurance carriers. You’d think that would be more than sufficient and you’d be wrong. They both came up with mostly incomprehensible reasons to deny some or all of the coverage. No doctor would categorize hernia repair as elective surgery. My hernia wasn’t on the level of the ruptured appendix that landed me in the emergency room but it still had to be dealt with. However, because it wasn’t more serious, because the overall costs were lower, it ended up costing me more. Does that make sense to you? It sure didn’t make any to me. My primary physician recommended an ultrasound and then a CAT scan prior to the operation. I had one post-op appointment as well. If the tear in my stomach lining had been bigger, if there were some sort of complications and I’d ended up being admitted, at least one of my insurance companies presumably would have covered the whole thing. Instead, as bad luck would have it, I made it through with flying colors. The procedure was about as routine as a teeth cleaning. And as a result, I’m now out six grand. SIX GRAND! “Coverage” from two companies and I’m still on the hook for about fifty percent of the total cost for an operation that was one hundred percent necessary. What’s wrong with this picture?

Actually, there’s plenty wrong. First, insurance companies can play these games and their isn’t much of anything their customers can do about it. And second, ObamaCare or not, the underlying problem with our health care system is that it’s too damn expensive. Why isn’t that getting more attention? I mentioned my CAT scan. I was at the hospital for a maximum of thirty minutes. That includes the time it took me to sign in, change clothes, etc. The actual scan took maybe ten minutes… and cost nearly $2,500. I’m sorry but I think $250 per second is a tad steep. Although it’s wonderful that so many more Americans have health insurance now, wherever that over-inflated bill goes, the stark reality is that someone still has to pay it. No, I’m not lobbying for a socialist state. I just think we’re attacking this from the wrong angle.

 

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