Posted by: Kate | May 6, 2010

Total Amount Due Now

Life is expensive stuff.

Particularly when it is sustained with the help of countless machines, tubes, medications, meters and other medical devices and substances.

It cost something in the vicinity of $19,000 for me to have my appendix removed, and then to plan my spring semester classes from a hospital bed so that I could hobble in to my teaching job (and provide therapy to a handful of clients) the following week.  That time, there was a mix-up in paperwork and we were accidentally sent the bill, Total Amount Due Now, and I had serious concerns about Willem’s ability to remain conscious and not experience an immediate heart attack or aneurysm at the thought of trying to repay such an amount.  (Our health insurance stepped in to save the day, and our ultimate Total Amount Due Now was somewhat smaller.)

This time, the paperwork is being properly processed, and thus we’re just receiving a long series of pages detailing the Dates of Service, enigmatic Procedure Codes (which Willem is able to look up online, and translate from five-digit numbers to slightly more descriptive words), out-of-pocket Charge Amounts, various columns sorting out insurance discounts and whatnot, and, finally, the Payment Amount that our insurance company will graciously fork over.  The quantity by which we’re expected to lessen our bank account is listed in a separate spot altogether, up in a corner, perhaps trembling in fear at some of the unbelievably high numbers in the other columns.

We got the first stack of insurance notices (followed, mere seconds later, by actual bills from the various providers) about a week ago, and Willem indulged his latent OCD tendencies by creating an Excel spreadsheet mapping out just how much we would have spend, just how much insurance discounted things, and just how much we will ultimately spend for the privilege of keeping me alive.  Those were all comparatively tame, no prices that were heart-squeezingly shocking; the biggest single charge was for my helicopter ride from Salem to Boston: $8,000 before insurance, around $1,000 after.  It makes the $100ish charge for sightseeing around Niagara Falls seem quite reasonable, in comparison.

But the one we were really interested in, the charge to end all charges, was the room-and-board fee from Massachusetts General Hospital.  I was there from March 9th to the 25th, much of that time in the ICU and then a few days in a regular room.  We played some fun little guessing games, trying to estimate how much 17 days in Boston would cost, compared to three days in rural New Hampshire, with our wildest guess hitting below $100,000.  And today, it arrived… were we to pay out-of-pocket, we would be facing a bill of $302,090.40.

$302,090.40.

That’s more than a quarter of a million dollars, just for the basic bed/food/monitoring fees; the consults and procedures and such are all billed separately. Our Total Amount Due Now? $250.00

All for something that could have been avoided by a simple strep test and a 10-day course of penicillin, for maybe $25.00.

Thank God we have health insurance.

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Responses

  1. Oh, I was close, actually! I guessed $295K…my son was in the hospital for 13 days in January. He had pneumonia and pleurisy and had to have surgery on his lungs. Our total bill was $225K. I think we’ll have to pay $1500 total, but those EOBs are staggering. And again, they missed his pneumonia at a sick baby visit…if they’d given us a $10 prescription for antibiotics then, the whole thing would have been avoided.

  2. My head, it asplode.

  3. Scary but without asking I can pretty much itemize the whole thing out, being that Derek had a kidney transplant. I always got a kick at how the bills came PRIOR to the insurance being billed, I saw those “PAY NOW” boxes and nearly collapsed to the floor. I would call my insurance company and they would say they haven’t even received a bill yet. And here we are 3 years later and some pathologist forgot to submit their bill and they are still trying to collect their $800 somewhere, but the insurance company assured me that the doctor did not bill in a timely matter so they see NOTHING! The costs are astronomical and UNREALISTIC that anyone can pay them and I thank god that we have insurance too.

  4. Wiz’s surgery: our total amount due has been 2500. For all of it. He hit out of pocket by March 9 at 3:00 pm. I’m not adding up how much it is actually costing the insurance company, because I just don’t want to know.

    Thank goodness for good insurance.

  5. More than 20 months into our continuing fight over Elizabeth’s birth, I still get panic attacks when I see envelopes from the hospital and the insurance company.

    I’m glad yours is covering things as it should, because those numbers are staggering!

  6. Holy cow!

  7. YIKES!!

  8. WOW soooo thankful you have insurance. I am curious and How much does insurance cost? Must be a lot if they have to fork out those high amounts. To think I was upset to get a small bill about $200 for a private room charge when I had G. Not that it is all peachy keen here you may still be on a wait list for some of your surgeries if you were in canada!! No price is too high to keep you healthy Kate.

  9. That is unbelievable…thank GOD for insurance. All told, Jade’s delivery cost us about $700 but would have been more like 10 grand out of pocket. It’s insane.

  10. i just got our bill for g’s (totally uncomplicated) delivery- over $12,000. We’re paying $150.
    How do people do it without insurance???

  11. We had Kaiser when Rebecca was born, she was eight weeks in ICU and I was three weeks in the hospital, surgery, LOTS of labs. At Kaiser, you pay the $100 hospitalization co-pay, and then you walk out the door (and they let me keep her baby blanket!).

    However, my husband’s company was one of those that “self-insures,” meaning that they pay the entire amount and Kaiser was just the administrator. We were told that three families that year each cost the company $500,000; one with a complex cancer diagnosis and complicated bone marrow transplant; one with neurofibromatosis with multiple surgeries, and Rebecca and me. And that was in 1995. I call her my “half-million dollar baby.”

    Frankly $300K would have been my guess too, and hoping your out-of-pocket doesn’t keep you from living this hard-won life fully. It’s worth it, you’re here…and telling us the tale in your ever-articulate way.

    So it was beta strep? Doubly scary; that’s a test that is supposed to be done right around delivery. I’m sure you have a plan in place to address it…

  12. Good heavens! As a Canadian, I cannot even comprehend what that must be like! Our four children’s pre-natal care, deliveries and aftermath cost us a total of $35 (for a telephone hook-up with #1; it was included with the other three.) I’m glad you’re okay Kate and I’m glad you have insurance. Wow.

  13. WOW! Just wow.

  14. Wow, just wow.

    I’m so glad you have good insurance. I feel for those families who have to figure out ways to pay off such an astronomical bill; can you imagine having to fundraise and beg and borrow money now after all you’ve been through? There has to be a better way.

  15. Thank goodness for insurance! I hope that the incompetent jerks that call themselves doctors that failed to catch the infection in the first place have to pay your insurance company and you back!

  16. Wait – whaddya mean – did I miss that you might have avoided this whole nightmare if you had been given a proper test before delivery? OMG.

    Glad you’re insured too – I shiver thinking of two of my sibs who aren’t.


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