Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Money Honey

     It's very, very hard, even with the distance of a week, for our emergency room trip last Thursday to not feel like a defeat. We've made it eighteen months, give or take, without having to resort to such measures, and that was a pretty significant thing. And then, at the worst possible time, my husband wasn't able to walk without holding on to something for support, and he hadn't slept in over 48 hours because of the stabbing pain in his spine and pelvis.

     I took him to the Barnes ER, which was the first time we've been there since arriving back in Missouri. They've redesigned it, which was nice, and they got him back fairly quickly, which was also nice. Granted, he usually gets called back in a hurry anyway, relatively speaking, when they learn his medical history, but it's not a given. The various doctors he saw all knew what Marfan Syndrome was, which was huge, because it meant he didn't have to try and explain not just what it is, but why it's causing the current problem. The orthopedic resident was able to get in touch with my husband's regular spinal specialist's office and consult with them about his treatment, which was absolutely great. So, for those things, I'm grateful.

     I couldn't stop thinking, though, about what this one visit meant for our future. A huge part of our current stress level is that I have no idea whether or not he's actually insured. His former employer fucked up and transferred both his information and mine, because he used to carry me on his insurance, to their new carrier, even though he didn't work there anymore. How they did that, I don't know, because he never enrolled, but that's beside the point. The fact remains, he was enrolled, but hasn't been paying his share of the premiums, because again, he doesn't work there. This clerical error was discovered when my husband tried to sign up for COBRA and couldn't, because he was listed as employed. No amount of phone calls and emails to both his former employer and the insurance carrier have thus far been able to get this resolved.

     Why does it matter so much, you ask? They have to treat him at the emergency room if he shows up, right? Well, yeah, but where do you think that bill's gonna go? And really, I should say that it's "bills", plural, because there are going to be at least three, maybe four, because they did labs on him. A lot of people don't realize that there are usually three bills whenever you go to the ER, depending on if you have x-rays done or not - the actual facility bill, which is what you get charged for being in the building and using their stuff. Then you have a separate physician bill, because many ER's use a physician service and bill for their time separately. Then, if you have x-rays done, you're going to get a separate bill from the service that read and interpreted the x-rays. Oh, and also possibly a bill from the laboratory than did your bloodwork, if they sent it out for tests. So there's that.

     I know from both personal and professional experience that this was easily a $5,000 trip, probably closer to $10k, because not only did they do multiple x-rays on him, but then they needed a CT; if he wasn't full of metal (spinal fusion with multiple titanium rods and titanium aortic valve), I'm sure they would have shoved him through an MRI as well. That would've been another $2,000-$4,000.00, but that's a bridge we don't have to cross, so at least there's that.

     You know what's the leading reason people find themselves filing bankruptcy, at least according to the info I can find? Medical bills. Lots and lots of medical bills. When we first moved to North Carolina, my husband was covered under the health insurance offered by his employer, but we still ended up with thousands of dollars in medical bills after he was hospitalized for a month. We were not out-of-network, and no procedures were denied coverage, but the best his company at the time offered was a high-deductible plan that then only covered 90% once that deductible was satisfied. What did that mean for us? It meant we had to pay $5,000 right out of the gate before the coverage would even kick in, and even then, we were responsible for 10% of the total bill. The month of July in 2013, it cost over $45,000 to keep him alive because he was so sick with...something.


     Yeah, that was kind of the final "get bent" cherry on the sundae - after all the hospitalizations, visits to specialists, and diagnostics, no one was able to tell us what was going on. And at the end of the day, we were left with almost $10,000 in bills. We've been paying on them ever since, and have gotten the balance down to around $1700, which I'm pretty damn proud of, but now? Now, we're both terrified to open the mailbox, because there are probably some pretty hefty bills on their way. I can't even begin to guess what they're going to look like, because of his current health insurance tangle. Will they accept the charges and send us the balance? Will they realize during processing that he's not actually covered, and deny the whole visit? Will I actually go insane from trying to figure a way out of this mess? Tune in next time, kids, for the answers to these and other questions you never asked!

    

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