Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raise your glass to health

Health care in our country is broken. I realize it's a whole lot more broken (or nonexistent) in other countries, but in our Promised Land of Plump Plenty, one would think we'd have everything together. I understood more deeply just how dire the situation is for those without health insurance yesterday when a statement landed in our mailbox. Husband recently suffered a bout of bronchitis. After waiting out several days of fever, but before the coughing really set in, he visited our local hospital, which is an urgent care by day and an emergency room by night. He went on a Saturday in the evening, and I'm guessing that the place had morphed back into an ER by then, because the bill was over $1,600.

To diagnose bronchitis.

Of course, they tested him for strep throat and even took a chest X-ray to look for pneumonia (a drastic test, I thought, but with so many people coming down with respiratory infections lately, a valid option, I suppose). He was prescribed a Z-pack and a bottle of syrup and sent on his way. Then the $1,600 statement came a few weeks later. I'm not sure how much our employer-provided health insurance will cover (maybe, hopefully, more than I think), but I am grateful to have it, in spite of the costly premiums. And I am concerned for those who do not. We often hear the Lifeline helicopter flying over our home, rescuing the injured from car accidents or victims of heart attacks. Word is, just to put the key in the ignition costs $11,000, the bill usually reaching over $25,000 when all is said and done. And Lifeline is not covered by insurance.

I definitely would prefer not to see my father's medical bills after his numerous hospitalizations, prostate surgery, back surgery, and lengthy nursing home stay, not to mention the home care he may require. He is fortunate to be covered by Medicare and to also have a personal, supplemental health insurance policy (although I will not even venture into the issue of the abuse of Medicare in the health field). This illness will probably not break him financially. But it would break many others who are less fortunate.

The issue raises the question that no one wants to decide: What is the cost of a human life? I don't follow the health care debate closely, because I truly don't expect any radical changes. Radical change may be the needed treatment, but the prescription will probably be written for something safe, convenient, and cost-effective for the government and big business. I don't care to listen to the two political sides argue over their supposed ideals, making mincemeat of one another while ignoring the issue on which they should be working together. I don't believe the word "compromise," in its truest sense, is in their vocabulary.

All I know is, if they ever want to call Lifeline for me, just go ahead and let me die. I wouldn't want to leave my loved ones with that kind of bill.


blind irish pirate said...


And 16 hundred for a freaking bronchitis? The ER doc couldn't put stethoscope to ear to chest? Whip out the old ultrasound?


I get pretty annoyed when people say that our healthcare is fine. Really? Do you have healthcare? Then yes, it is fine for you.

Matty said...

the worst part about that bad news is that the bulk of that $1,600 fee is for administrative costs. disgusting.

Lester said...

Do check this out. It's a rather simple explaination of what is going on. Some is lost in the simplicity, but it's a decent start.

Healthcare on the back of napkins:

Katherine said...


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