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.
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.