I recently wrote about an experience I had at the beginning of the year when I had to have emergency surgery to patch a perforated ulcer in my stomach. This is the first time in my life that I have had a major operation like that.
I’ve undergone two shoulder surgeries, a carpal tunnel release and surgical removal of my impacted wisdom teeth, but all of those were planned out in advance, and the shoulder surgeries and carpal tunnel release were all covered by the lawsuit I was in from the car accident which caused the injury. My wisdom teeth cost us about $1,000 out of pocket due to pretty good insurance. Therefore, I was wholly unprepared for my statement after this surgical procedure.
I work in this field and I know that healthcare is unbelievably expensive in this country. I guess I was just somewhat naive to just how expensive it could be.
For just the operation, the hospital billed my insurance a whopping $64,448.06. On top of that, they charged (separately, for miscellaneous items) $11,467, totaling $75,915.06. For one day. And one surgery.
I am fortunate: My insurance is paying so much that my responsibility is only (ha! only…) $5,180.45. Now, that’s not going to be paid at once because I just so happened to total my car a couple of weeks ago when I had a seizure behind the wheel – so that money will go to a new vehicle.
An Alternate – But Common – Reality
Imagine if I didn’t have insurance. If I was working two (or more) jobs just to keep my head above water and I needed emergency surgery. And imagine if – in order to survive – I would be on the hook for $75,915.06 (plus some for the following days spent in a hospital bed).
Sure, they don’t charge interest, but that would eventually be put on my credit. And once it’s on my credit, my ability to purchase items that I need would be greatly inhibited. I use this detailed example because I’ve seen it play out again and again through friends, acquaintances and family members, alike.
As one of the “best” countries in the world, I find it especially sad that a health emergency can ruin someone’s life so quickly. I’ve written about the dire state of our healthcare system before, and my experiences as both a medical professional and patient have only furthered my distaste of the system.
I do not think it is right for us to claim to be the best country in the world when we’re the only developed nation in which an emergency can bankrupt you.
I am very grateful for the team that saved my life that day. I’m grateful to the nurses and patient care technicians and I want them to be paid well, but the truth of the matter is that most of them aren’t even paid enough to live on. Especially the patient care technicians.
So, if we’re spending so much money on care, bankrupting those who have no choice but to get care and the people on the front lines aren’t making enough to live on, how can we claim to be number one? We can’t.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know one thing is for sure: What we’re doing isn’t working.