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Venting About The American Health Care System (Do I Really Want To Stress About This Right Now?)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

January marks the 2 year anniversary of my cancer surgery. For my type of cancer this is kind of a big deal, or so I have been told by my oncologist and the results of various studies. So, my doctor told me to schedule my annual full body ultrasound scans to make sure there is still no sign of anything hiding anywhere in my body. I made the appointment and was supposed to have the tests yesterday. SUPPOSED To until the hospital called me the day before! I was working, so they left a voicemail informing me that the hospital portion of the test was $1,000 dollars and since I had not met my (very high) insurance deductible, I was welcome to pay them the full amount upon arrival by cash, check or credit card!

I called back to try to arrange a monthly payment plan with them, as I had in the past. Every single time I had to do that, I paid the agreed upon installment on time (or earlier) each and every month until I had paid in full. When both my husband and I had cancer in the same year, this was how I paid ALL of our medical bills.

When I called to make this "simple" arrangement, I was informed that I could pay only $500 and finance the rest. Upon further discussion (somewhat frantic on my end), I was given the final option of pay one third ($334 dollars) up front. Now, that might sound reasonable and would have been a few years back under different job circumstances, but this was still totally undoable for me at this time. When I asked WHY I could not just pay monthly for the entire charge as I have done many times before, I was told, "We don't do that anymore; so, will you be canceling your appointment?" I (somewhat hysterically) responded, "Well, I guess so!!! No Problem! I don't have to know if my cancer has returned or not, because I obviously couldn't afford to do anything if it did!!!", and snapped off my phone. Quick side note: It was SO much more satisfying when I could SLAM a phone to hang up versus the new method of clicking!

I called my doctor's office and left them a voice message (no office answers the phone anymore) to tell them about the situation and why I would not be able to have these important tests for a few more months until I could come up with at least a down payment. I am still waiting for a response.

Somewhere over the past couple of days, I have decided to shake this off. I am pretty sure a couple of months wait for these tests is not such a big deal, simply because I was told initially that if the Big C DID come back within 2 years it was pretty much...BYE! Even so, I needed the time to even be able to vent it fully by blogging it out.

The American Health Care System...or, The American Health Care Nightmare? Working adults paying for health insurance for their entire lives and then where is it when you need it! I spent an entire 32 year career working for a major health insurance company and was laid off 1 year before I could retire with paid health and life insurance for life...oops!!! Wonder what bean counter caught that one just in time! So, we pay for inferior coverage at a high cost through my husband's employer (one of the biggest employer's in the WORLD!) Gotta love it! Now, if we were "indigent" (and no slights intended toward the indigent), I could have filled out paperwork to get a monthly payment plan without a down payment to get my tests done. What!?! I would think because we are NOT (thank God) indigent that they might think we would have a better shot at actually paying them!

GRRRR....OK, it is out before it can do any more damage. After all, 'tis the Season and I did have a blessing from my employer yesterday in the form of a bonus. Not enough to pay for my tests, but enough to buy a couple of small gifts for my children and DH and have a nice Holiday meal together. And, this is more important to me right now than fueling the health care industry with my desperation.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am so sorry this happened to you. Just remember one thing, God calls the shots. I have known people that the medical staff told the family that they would be vegetables and God brought them back with no ill effects. He does according to His Will.

    I know not knowing plays on your mind. My sister had breast cancer and dreaded finding out if it had come back but each time the answer was "No." I pray you and your husband will be cancer free by the grace of God.
    3419 days ago
    Linda, I don't blame you for being frustrated for what happened. The system is broke and I don't really see a fix in sight. Stay positive. I've always said insurance is an necessary evil! Will keep you and your family in my prayers.

    hugs...Mary Anne
    3431 days ago
  • no profile photo CD10677745
    I hate the coldness of the medical world we live in. Yes, we all know hospitals have to pay their bills but you were offering to pay monthly payments and have a good record for doing so in the past. There should be compassion, we don't choose to get sick.

    Please try contacting other facilities that may have this test or a small hospital maybe in a different area. Oh, and a get a land line so you can have the satisfaction of hanging up on them with a big bang as they deserve it!
    3431 days ago
    We need health care for EVERYONE in the United States ... this is not right ... we HAVE to have everyone be able to get the PREVENTATIVE care they so deserve ... and CONTINUOUS care for those like you .... why oh why our country lets the medical companies and pharmacies control these awful rates I will never understand --- wake up AMERICA !! I pray for you my friend .... I'm hoping in our lifetime we will see Americans taken care of like they should be !! Roc
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    3431 days ago
    I am saddened and angered by this blog. No, not by you, by the terrible state our medical care has been fast forwarding to. It is a national shame.

    As for you, I hope your cancer is knocked back, never to appear again. But it would be very good to get it all checked ou and on schedule. I agree that a visit to the hospital in person is a good thing for you to do.

    Do you have any family or friends who could forward you the money to pay down the first portion though?

    3431 days ago
    Hey Linda... As you already know, it's been 4 years in remission for me, and all I can think of saying to you is don't let the system get you frustrated because 1.) It ain't gonna get you anywhere anytime anyhow, 2.) Bad negative thoughts and feelings will probably aid in bringing back your cancer (be positive/grateful ALWAYS) and 3.) Remember: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart... Lean not on your own understanding, but in ALL your ways acknowledge HIM, and HE will direct your paths." God bless you, you guys have a very merry Christmas....

    In Him, Ted emoticon emoticon
    3432 days ago
  • LINDAJ0621
    Thank you dear SparkFriends for commenting on this blog. Your suggestions are very appreciated and I have decided to let this wait until after the holidays and my DD's return to her home. I just will not permit this to interfere with our Holiday plans. I DO plan to show up at the hospital in person (I have done this before) and let them tell me to my face what they can't or won't do. Also, we have a new HSA of $500 that kicks in on January 1st. So, that will be added leverage to getting this test re-scheduled.

    What a caring community we all have here at SP! emoticon Once again, thank you all for all your support and prayers through so many trials and tribulations (and triumphs!) over the past year. May each of you have a blessed and peaceful Holiday!
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    3432 days ago
    All I can say is I think it is disgusting! The whole situation is disgusting. I don't know if it would even get to the bottom line, which is you NEED to have that test . . . but maybe you could go further up the food chain @ the hospital to discuss the situation?? The V.P.?? Patient representative??

    I have had several instances where I KNEW that the amt. the hospital was WRONG based on my insurance coverage and PAST bills for the same services. After several WEEKS of calls, I went in -- personally -- and talked with a patient representative. What do you know -- the mistake was taken care of!

    Wishing you good luck and don't give up!!
    3432 days ago
    Have you considered sitting down with your bank and discussing this situation with them... they may be able to write you a personal loan with a lower interest rate. You may also want to talk to an independent scan center, they might be more flexable with their payment plans. Neither of these suggestions really address the problems with our current healthcare system and the proposed upcoming system will not be economically feasible because the # of people now unemployed is far greater then anticipated! You will find comfort in knowing that you are being covered with prayer and there will be an answer!
    3432 days ago
    It's so wrong that people cannot have the medical treatments that they need because of finances. I know that there are many, many countries which do not have universal health care, and am very thankful for our system here.

    I wish you and your husband lived in Canada! As you know, Peter has had some issues lately - he has seen 3 specialists, multiple blood tests and ECG's, stress tests and is scheduled for shoulder surgery in January. So far we have paid not $1, and the only thing we've been told we will be charged for is the sling that he will have to use for 4-6 weeks. There is a medical fee built into our provincial taxes; a maximum of $600 each. Then we pay $100/person each year toward prescription costs, then $4.11 each time we have a prescription filled as long as the medication is on an "approved" list. Ambulance service is free. Eye examinations are free once a year after 65.

    Peter and I had private health insurance until we turned 65, but the rates increased so much after that date that we decided not to continue it. So far, we have not had significant expenses, and are glad that we cancelled it.

    The worst thing we run into is with dental. Dental insurance is horrendously expensive after age 65, and we have reduced the frequency of dental check-ups from 4x yearly to 2x. We will no longer have crowns done, or bridge work because it's simply too expensive.

    All in all, we recognize how well off we are, and wish that everyone could have the kind of medical care we receive.

    You and your husband are in my prayers, and I really appreciate your support since Peter's problems began.

    3432 days ago
    I'm fuming right along with you.
    3433 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9839390
    Oh, I truly know what you are going through. At the beginning of last year I was scheduled to have surgery on my elbow to fix a compressed nerve. My doctor had took me I would be able to make monthly payments to pay off my part of the bill. He was wrong. His nurse called me a week before surgery to tell me I would need to pay my entire deductible $2000.00 for the year before surgery. I had to cancel the surgery.

    Since joining SP the symptoms from the compressed nerve have improved which I am very glad about because I have still not be able to save what I would need to have this surgery. Oh I need the surgery and maybe one day I can get it. Until then I have to live with numbness and occasional minor pain in my left hand and almost daily pain in my elbow . And, like you Linda, I also work for a well know insurance company. GRRRRRRRRRRRR
    3433 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/16/2011 5:34:23 AM
    I used to be in your shoes--i was laid off, then, too, and became too ill to work, so now I'm one of those indigent folks! ACK! I have to tell you Social Security is better than nothing, but those Medicare co-pays are impossible and the help I get from the state?
    It really IS frustrating--and I'm like a lot of folks, still waiting for the new "health care plan" to prove useful!

    I've been in remission for 18 months now...

    I'm not making ends meet even with all of it, so I totally get you!

    I hope you can find some kind of solution... At least you have some time with your loved ones to enjoy for now while things work themselves out...
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    3433 days ago
    Hi Linda.......
    Oh, how I hear you loud and clear!!!!! My husband and I have been very fortunate to have had good health insurance through our jobs. Now we are both retired and on medicare and supplemental insurance and are finding out just how lucky we WERE. There just has to be a better way for our health issues to be handled. I have a good friend in Canada who can't say enough good about their system. One would wish that our government could find out what they are doing and learn from it.
    I don't know what your relationship is with your Dr., but is it possible to talk to him/her to see if there is anything that can be done payment-wise. You have such a good past record, that you would think that would count.
    I wish you the best.
    3433 days ago
    I know what you feel like and going through. I will be praying for you.

    emoticon and have a very Merry Christmas.
    3433 days ago
    Linda, your blog makes me want to cry. I feel so terribly bad for you. It seems as though those of us that work and contribute to society are the ones that truly get the shaft when it comes to our own healthcare, etc. My hugs and prayers go to you and your hubby. If I were in a better position, I'd help you myself!!!

    Hugs...lots of them!
    3433 days ago
  • KKP4673
    So completely frustrated with you!!! I hope it does turn out OK and the frustration is relieved soon!!

    I know you will have a happy holiday regardless!!!

    3433 days ago
    That is awful. My DH sells medical equipment. And I know that our system in going down hill fast. Not to worry...some politician will save us all. emoticon
    3433 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9392719
    Man -- that sucks. So much for preventive health care. It is getting worse and worse in this country and sorry to say, I don't see any improvements in the future. I agree with ALIHIKES - perhaps there is another way or like she said, a supervisor. It could't hurt to ask - remember the person you spoke to probably doesn't have the authority to do something beyond.

    Good Luck!
    3433 days ago
    i understand, i experienced the same thing this past year, i went in for my first mamagram, IT WAS SUPPOSE to be paid for because that was the info that insurance company gave me..well they left out one small detail, i had to meet the deductable and have had NO other doc appts tween the 2 mths prior..the first of the year i always have to see the cardiologist (this year i had to have an echo), plus i have to go to the reg doc in order to get my meds refilled, and sooooo, about a month after the MAM i got a 300 dollar bill..i was pretty sick over it!
    3433 days ago
    So sorry you are caught up in our convoluted difficult insurance system! More and more people are in jobs without any insurance, or with insurance that denies coverage for essential care. It is frustrating when it can impact YOUR HEALTH.

    Is there another provider in your are that does the full body CAT scans? (In my community a couple of clinics are significantly cheaper than the Hospital) Is there a supervisor at the Hospital that you can talk to that could recognize your good payment record and authorize the CAT scan with monthly payments from you?

    SO GLAD you are cancer free after 2 years! emoticon
    3434 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8504685
    So frustrating indeed. Hugs!
    3434 days ago
    Hugs. That kind of stuff really frustrates me to no end.

    3434 days ago
    Hugs to you - wish I had some answers. In this country there should be no problem with someone getting care. It is just wrong. Sending you healing vibes and love. Enjoy the holidays and then we just need to find a way to kick some insurance butt!
    3434 days ago
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