As anyone who has been listening here knows, both Lisa and I have had nasty colds. I got mine in Chicago, and it was so bad that Lisa took me to the emergency room. We were out of town, after all, and in downtown Chicago. It’s not like we had a lot of medical options. This is a major, major mistake, though, and it describes exactly what is wrong with the health care environment in this country.
I’ll start by noting the people in Chicago’s emergency room were all very nice, and seemed good at their job. I felt miserable, and they were great. I left feeling better than when I came in. Kudos.
But let’s face it, my diagnosis was a probable virus (for which they could do nothing), and a possible sinus infection, for which the doctor prescribed an antibiotic. While there, I received an IV bag of sugar water, two Tylenol, and a chest X-ray to ensure I didn’t have pneumonia. The bill, not counting doctors’ time was $3,200.
You read that right. $3200.
I believe three doctors stopped by my room to give me the once over and arrive at this diagnosis, and their charges are not included in that number. We’re expecting more bills, and I’ll not be surprised if the overall cost of having my probable virus looked at will approach $5K.
My first thought upon getting the bill was “Crap, I shouldn’t have gone to get this looked at. I should have just toughed it out.”
When you stop and look at things you’ll see that this is a really dumb way of thinking. I mean, when you’re sick, you should go to get it taken care of. It’s the right thing to do for both yourself and the rest of the world. But, $5K? Seriously?
Yes, I have insurance, and the company came riding to the rescue. That $3200 bill was reduced to $1200. Oh, joy. Now I’m supposed to be happy to pay $1200 for two Tylenol, an X-ray, and a bag of sugar water. Call me cheap, but wow. The incredible thing here is that for a very few moments I actually felt good about this. After all, I was getting a 62.5% discount! But then reality hit. The Tylenol (which I assume was the $28 pharmaceutical charge itemized on the bill) is worth about a buck, and I had some in my hotel room. The X-ray was a couple hundred dollars as itemized on the bill. Unless a bag of sugar water is valued at something nearing $1K, someone here is getting jobbed.
You can guess who it is.
Back in July, I wrote that “The more I learn about the various systems of the world, and the more I think about us here in the little old US, the more I think that it just really doesn’t matter what system we have insofar as who pays for it. It costs X dollars to fund healthcare, and those X dollars are coming from the folks who have dollars in some form or another. That seems to be the base process. The question of who pays for it is the wrong question.”
I sugar coated what the right question was. The right question is “Why is our basic health care so expensive that the average person can’t afford it on their own?”
Quite honestly, this trip of mine should have been a $600 expense–maybe $800 if I stretch things a bit. Actually, who am I kidding. Even those numbers are a bit mind-boggling. A person with a cold should be able to walk into a medical facility anywhere in the country and for a couple hundred bucks walk out either (a) knowing there’s nothing they can do about it, or (b) with a prescription to fix it. In the case of (c) it’s something worse, then that person gets the “Go to Hospital” card, and things change at that point. Anyway, I digress.
Neither ObamaCare nor RomneyCare nor WhateverCare is going to solve this problem–all they do is make one group of people (or companies) pay more so the others can get something cheaper. So my trip to the ER for my Probably Virus might cost $7K next year or the year after or whenever. I’m not saying that’s the wrong thing to do or the right thing to do. What I’m saying is that neither system is actually attacking the X dollars that our health care costs. All they are focusing on is spreading that X dollars among everyone in some way that they can basically “afford” it. Our health care system lobbyists have successfully kept the focus on the “who pays” question rather than “how much?”
So I’ll need to plan to pay $7K next time. Except, of course, next time it won’t cost that much because there won’t be a next time. I’ll not go to the doctor in that situation. ObamaCare? RomneyCare? TodayCare? Doesn’t matter. I’ll suffer instead. I’ll save the $7K (bargained down to $2800), and just ride out the sonuvagun.
With any luck, it’ll just be a virus.
Great system, eh?