It is no particular secret that I have been dealing with a "significantly damaged" heart for little more than 12 years. This has given me something of a patient emeritus status. Let's just say there are nurses who, having cared for thousands of patients once, know me on sight.
The good thing about heart problems is that is for the most part a "clean" disease. It's not like rickets or some other grody thing. With heart problems for the most part you can even keep your pants on.
The costs do pile up, though, after one heart attack, over a dozen major procedures, and open heart surgery. The amounts paid out on my behalf by Medicare have long since exceeded whatever I paid into the system during my alleged working days. This means somebody else is now making forced disbursements into the kitty to pay the expense of keeping me alive. If you're working, I pick you for the honor of paying for my problems.
A recent non-heart-attack type "event" resulted in three different doctors from varying specialties and one R.N. knowing me eight years all saying, "Sounds like a neurological problem to me". So, I dutifully went to the recommended specialist. Why not? You're paying for it.
The neurologist not knowing what was wrong meant I was going to be doing some tests.
(Have you ever wondered why when they do any medical test that if you say, "it only hurts when I do this" they say, "Don't do that during the test?")
The bills for all these tests have now come in.
There ended up being three MRI's, a MRA, an Angiograph and ECG -- billed at $16,000, more or less. One of these MRI go-arounds put me in the ER and entitled me to one night in the hospital -- little shy of $5,000. Then there were the various doctors -- not quite $2,000. Total amount billed $23,128. There is no way to know what was really paid, given these figures came through government agency paperwork and Medicare doesn't actually pay the full amount. My share was about $50 -- most of which came out of the deductible Lynn's Pharmacy got for my $300/month never ending drug need.
The bills were not for extended hospitalization, not surgery, not life or death; just tests. Whatever the dollars actually paid, one dreads to think what the costs would have been if this was all just part of someone's attempt to keep me alive months on end until the money ran out completely.
When I was 10-years-old or so our family doctor explained he could no longer charge each family according to their ability to pay. Because so many were getting health insurance, doctors now had to have set charges. I think that was the day when doctoring became a business.
Now we are seeing a whole lot of changes in billing and insurance and treatment options coming about because of new laws. Can't wait to see how much the costs of living will be going up. And, look forward to finding out who is going provide the "K's" when my costs of living becomes a question dollars.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.