Ridiculous Cost of Health Care

As you all know, I broke my elbow about four weeks ago. I went to the ER to get it x-rayed and confirm it was broken. I was there for about an hour or so. They took about six x-rays, poked and prodded at my arm, felt my spine to see if everything seemed okay, provided me with a splint, a sling, and two Ace bandages, and then sent me on my way with a recommendation that I go see a bone doctor the next day. I went there, they looked at the x-rays, gave me two more Ace bandages and a nicer sling, and let me go with some more specific instructions and directions to go to physical therapy twice a week for four weeks. I’ve been doing that.

That all sounds good. I was treated well and continue to be happy with the level of medical attention I’ve been getting. No complaints there. And there’s really no complaints on the amount of money I personally have had to pay. I have great medical insurance. For the ER visit, I payed my copay of $25. I pay a copay of $20 for all the other visits. too. Fine.

But then my insurance company tells me how much gets charged for all of these visits, and things get a little screwy. That ER visit? Over 2,000 dollars. My visit to the bone doctor? Over $700.

I guess I just have a limited view on what all these things should cost. $2000? For what? My splint isn’t made out of solid gold. The Ace bandages don’t magically wrap themselves.

But I don’t worry about the total bill, because I have insurance. I pay my $25, and the insurance talks to the hospital from then on. It just seems to me that because actual, thinking human beings have been removed from the equation, the costs have skyrocketed. I’m not saying that people at the hospital or insurance business don’t think. I’m saying that the conversations are between companies, not people. When I talk to my doctor friends, they agree with me that the costs of health care are too high. Outlandishly high. But there’s nothing they can do about it.

Why are they as high as they are? I honestly don’t know. I have to think some of it is because of the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. But I also have to think some of it is because companies–not people–are paying the bills, and so it’s removed from actual real budgets and goes off into theoretical wonderland, the same place government budgets come from.

But in the end, I’m not really informed about this–anyone out there with a better handle on how this all works? I’d love to hear some people “in the know” give me their take.

All I can say is thank goodness for my insurance. Because I certainly couldn’t pay $3,000 (when all’s said and done) for my broken elbow. It wasn’t even that bad of a break. This is why I have a full time job. This is why authors who wish they could write full time, can’t. Gotta have the insurance.


7 thoughts on “Ridiculous Cost of Health Care”

  1. It’s totally possible to get insurance without a job, as long as you are reasonably healthy. If you actually need it already, you’re out of luck. But even so, many people don’t have insurance, so you can bet a lot of those conversations are not between companies, but between a company and an individual. It’s not hard to tell who has the most power in that conversation.

    With ER visits, you pay not just for your services, but for the money they have to pay the doctors and nurses and so on when no one is coming in. You pay for the existence of the ER, essentially, in addition to your own actual expenses.

    Health care costs are totally too high. I had a baby, everything was normal, and the total bills are somewhere around 11,000 dollars, *after* our insurance knocks down what the hospital actually billed them because they have a contract that allows them to set maximum allowable charges. After. Seriously. We have insurance, so we don’t have to pay all of that, but our maternity deductible is the highest thing on our plan, so we’re paying a good chunk of it. Much, much more than 3,000 dollars.

    It’s pretty crazy. We’re fortunate that we have the means to acquire health care anyway. Not everybody does.

  2. I believe part of the cost has to do with the number of people who come to the ER who don’t have insurance. If the hospital or clinic has to eat some of the cost for their treatment, they have to raise the rates on those who do have insurance.

  3. I doubt it’s because of the cost of those of us who go without insurance. I’m still paying off the $6000 I was charged for ONE night in the hospital while uninsured (because as a freelancer, as Janci said, I’m uninsurable–“healthy” is relative to the insurance companies) due to an asthma attack. I had 5 different bills to pay, four of which were to the same two companies (two each–apparently if you cross midnight, you get a new bill??) which made it a NIGHTMARE to be able to pay it off. I’d been paying faithfully, so I thought, when it turned out I’d been paying on a bill that had been paid, and the other one went into collections. It really dinged my credit for over a year and they still haven’t given me back the $250 I overpaid to the wrong account number, nor credited it to the correct one, EVEN THOUGHT IT’S THE SAME COMPANY.

  4. I get that ER would be more expensive than regular doctor visits, but still. $3000? And the bone doctor was like $700, and that’s not ER at all. I have no idea how much it cost us to have DC–but all we paid out of pocket was $20. Hard to really care when you don’t see the actual costs, and Joshua makes a good point that it would be interesting to know what the insurance company is really paying vs. what it says it’s paying. I’m not convinced I’m seeing the real numbers.

    Stacy–that sounds like a nightmare. So frustrating


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