Big Medical Bills

My nephew called last night to tell me that he’d had a trip to the ER Monday from work, by ambulance. He became really dizzy, and wasn’t even able to walk.  His manager called for an ambulance, and he was taken to the nearest hospital.  The ride made him feel even worse, causing nausea and vomiting.  After several hours at the hospital, he was told he had vertigo and was allowed to go home.  He saw a doctor the next day to make sure there wasn’t anything more he needed to do.

One of his concerns was the bill.  As someone who’s been paying medical bills on a continuous basis for over 6 years now, I offered some advice.  My advice to anyone who incurs hefty medical bills is to negotiate payments if you’re not able to pay the whole thing at once.  I’ve never been turned down by any hospital for a payment schedule, and they have never charged interest. Whatever you do, don’t put the charges on a credit card.

I do have pretty good insurance, but the annual out of pocket expense is up to $3500, depending on how much treatment I have, how many doctor appointments there are, what medications I’m on and if there were any hospital stays. In addition to the maximum out of pocket expense ($3500), there are drug and doctor copays.  There are also parking fees and driving expenses.  It can add up to a lot, believe me.  If I’ve made a trip to the Mayo Clinic or Dana-Farber or someplace, there are even more expenses.

I’m lucky that I have insurance that’ll cover the major stuff. Our plan has no lifetime maximum, and we have good prescription coverage. I don’t think anything I’ve ever done has been challenged by them.  I can see specialists when I want to, and only the really big stuff, like the stem cell transplant, has to be pre-approved.

There’s one problem with my insurance.  It’s tied to my job.  Should anything ever happen to cause me to lose my job, I’d be in big trouble.  I’m not old enough to be covered by Medicare and not poor enough to be covered by Medicaid.  I’m not elligible for disability, either. I’m an insured middle class person who, like most other working Americans, could easily become uninsured.  It’s a situation that can cause worry, because there’s nothing much I could do, except for exhaust my savings and sell my belongings to raise money for treatment if it was needed if, for any reason, I were to find myself uninsured.

I believe we do need to find a solution to address the need for affordale health care for all Americans.  I don’t think it’s something that we can keep putting off.  The way things are now, the very poor and the elderly get decent health care, and the middle class is left to fend for itself.  If employers provide group plans, that’s great, but there are a lot of people who have to pay for their own insurance or have none at all.  If you have insurance through your employer and lost your job, how long could you afford to pay the premiums?

I would ask that the people who think we should ignore the problem a while longer try to imagine yourselves jobless and without health care coverage. Then imagine that you have a chronic health condition or serious illness or injury. How will you manage to pay for your treatment or care?  What if you can’t even get insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

I usually don’t write about politics, but health care is a hot button issue here. I can’t imagine how any human being can want to deny another person the right to decent, affordable health care. Any of us could find ourselves in need one day.


  1. Pushkar

    It really ddeenps on your current situation. Most insurance companies require high deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket maximum. The best insurance I had was through an employer who were self-insured and under PPO. If you are trying to get private insurance (not through your employer), depending on which state you reside, ob-gyn and pregnancy is usually not covered. If this is the case, try using an insurance broker who can find you the best plans at the best rates that meet your needs.

  2. Sharon Shaw

    LOL. You are a coot after my own heart.

    Kim, I too wish you and your husband well. I might hazard to point out that not everyone wants, can, or even should have to leave one profession and train for another because the pharma industry has joined with the insurance matrix to make medical care prohibitive for all but the wealthiest.

  3. LaCootina

    “What I say to the people who think they want to deny care to others is, it could be YOU one day. It could be a member of your family or someone else you care about.”

    Good point. I would also add that we already pay to provide health care to the uninsured, we just do it through the least efficient, most expensive system in the world.

    The Coot

    P.S. No lifetime maximum??? Is that a government job?

  4. klm

    We too were stuck in the “middleclass nightmare”. Premiums (over 7 yrs ago) were almost $400 a month with a deductible of $3200 per person. Well I had to do something, we were slowly becoming insurance poor. We are self-employed and I decided to go back to school to get a job where medical insurance was available. There is ALWAYS a way to better your situation. Thank goodness I did!! My husband was dx with high risk MM in March. Will begin the SCT process tomorrow. As long as you pay on your bills each month there is really nothing they can do to you. We did this for years before I went back to school. Have NEVER been turned down by ANY hospital, doctor or othere medical facility. If there are those still without health coverage in this country, then fix it for them. Leave the rest of us alone!!!

    • Beth

      I hope your husband’s SCT goes very well. Will it be inpatient or outpatient? Has he already gotten his melphalan? Keep us updated!

  5. Sharon Shaw

    Beth, you make some excellent points. I work with a gal who has to buy her own insurance and it costs more than $500 monthly AND there is a $10,000 deductible. It is a dangerous and scarey mess. Although I am lucky and have both medicare and state health insurance, there are so many that are not so fortunate. I am sick about those who have so often shouting down attempts to help those who have not.

    Glad your nephew had nothing incredibly awful.

    • Beth

      Most Americans cannot pay $500 a month for insurance. I know I couldn’t if I were to lose my job. I would probably not be able to get any coverage anyway, due to the fact that I have cancer. This health care issue is NOT just about about the poor and the elderly. It’s about working Americans who are being hung out to dry by the insurance industry and health care providers.

      One of my former doctors QUIT his practice, citing unfair practices by the insurance companies and health care conglomerates. He said he had an 82 year old woman in the hospital getting $100,000 worth of chemo because she had good insurance, while other patients died because they couldn’t afford treatment. The same year, a Blue Cross exec got a $1,000,000 bonus, he said. What I say to the people who think they want to deny care to others is, it could be YOU one day. It could be a member of your family or someone else you care about.


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