The bitter pill

May 2, 2013

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I meant to post this last week but time got away from me, it seems. Funny thing, I received this “threatening” collections letter the day I had my last Remicade treatment – which is also the day I read a really fascinating Time magazine article titled, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us” by Steven Brill. It’s from Time’s March 4, 2013 issue and I luckily found a copy at the clinic so I snatched it up to read while being hooked up to my Remicade I.V. for three hours. Good decision! Although after reading the article (and in the middle of reading it), I became so infuriated and upset, because much of what Brill writes about has affected my life in similar ways. Unfortunately you have to pay to read the article online, but it’s really worth it. Everyone should read it – especially if you go to the doctor often, have a lot of medical expenses, or have any kind of health condition.

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The article profiles several different patients and tells their stories about how they racked up huge medical bills, mostly from hospital expenses. Whether a cancer patient, an ER patient for heartburn thought to be a heart attack (and a $21,000 bill for that), the recipient of an overpriced implanted medical device, or a patient injured from a simple fall, one thing is constant in all of these stories – everyone was drowning in thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills. And the majority of the medical costs of these bills were grossly inflated and overpriced. Luckily I have managed to stay out of the hospital so far this year, but since January 1 I have accumulated a lot of medical debt due to doctor office visits, MRI and X-ray scans, prescription drugs, and expensive I.V. treatments for my RA. Let’s also add the bills for my psychologist appointments that I find necessary to help me stay sane trying to navigate all of this health crap on a daily basis. I feel like I’m going to the doctor all the time, even when I sometimes do cancel appointments (especially the therapy appointments) just to save money. Or I try to hold off on making appointments until after I’ve met my deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the year. I’ve heard stories from many other people who also go without their medications, treatments, or doctor visits because they can’t afford it. This, I feel, is simply wrong. Nobody should have to sacrifice his or her health because of financial reasons. But the way our healthcare system is set up, that is exactly what patients are pressured to do if they can’t afford their medical bills. Go into massive debt? Declare bankruptcy? Lose your house? Risk your life? It’s such a racket, with your dollars lining the pockets of the CEOs and administrators of ┬ámany health care and hospital systems – especially these so-called “nonprofit” hospitals that are actually making huge profits.

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Me, Remicade I.V. treatment, Maple Grove, MN, 2013

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