With the new year (or even year round), finances are a huge burden for those who have chronic illnesses that need to be treated with and without insurance. If you have insurance, you have to meet a deductible for plans to start covering health care costs on top of paying the monthly premium to have the plan. If you don’t have insurance, you have to pay for all of your health care costs out of your own pocket.
Let’s be real for a minute. Those who have chronic illnesses may have a harder time finding a job they can physically do because of their health. This puts a financial strain on their lives. They may not be able to work full time thus not qualify for health insurance or afford health care costs. If your job doesn’t offer health insurance, you may not qualify for federal assistance if your income isn’t high enough.
Why is our health care system this way? Every single person DESERVES basic health care. If you’re in pain, you should be able to have tests done to determine why you’re in pain and receive the necessary treatment. If you have diabetes, you should be able to receive your insulin. If you have asthma, you should be able to receive your inhalers. These are all life saving measures that should be provided to each of us in a timely manner.
About three weeks ago, I woke up to use the bathroom and all of a sudden had excruciating pain that I’ve never experienced before. I took a Percocet I had from a previous surgery and a bath, but no relief. I asked my parents to call for an ambulance because I was experiencing so much back pain on my right side and didn’t know what was going on. I don’t have ovaries, a uterus, an appendix, or a gallbladder so there wasn’t much it could be. As soon as the EMTs saw me, they said it was a kidney stone. I thought oh great . . . .
Once I got to the emergency room, I had to wait in the waiting room even though I was brought in by ambulance. I waited about 20-30 minutes before I was wheeled back to a room. After about three hours, I had a CT scan done and was given Toradol for pain and Zofran for nausea. I was told I had a 3mm kidney stone that I should be able to pass on my own. I was told I didn’t have an infection.
About two weeks later, I received the bill in the mail just for the emergency room costs. I don’t have insurance because I can’t pay $300+ a month for premiums for myself. The CT scan was $6,642. Are you kidding me? Am I making a payment on this machine for the hospital?! The total of this bill was $10,710.32, but I was kindly given a discount of $6,426.19. I’m responsible for paying $4,284.19.
I haven’t passed the kidney stone and I had to go to the er a week later because I was having trouble urinating and ended up having an infection.
This is why people don’t seek the health care they need. This is ridiculous. Am I saying all health care should be free (tests, appointments, prescriptions, etc.)? No. What I’m saying is we shouldn’t have to pay astronomical amounts of money to try to receive the health care we need.
How am I going to pay $4,000 for this one bill? Why is our health care system so broken? What can be done to fix it? Do you have an experience similar to this? Leave a comment below.
Samantha Bowick, MPH is the author of "Living with Endometriosis: The Complete Guide to Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options" and "Living with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency" as well as a fellow sufferer of multiple chronic illnesses and patient advocate.