Once again my family's encounter with an Emergency Room zaps our pocket book, our personal economy. Americans must stop believing the crap politicians say. They must know that their inflated medical bills are ultimately legalized theft. This is our new ER event that is sure to await you as well if it has not already.
I am a self-employed businessman and political activist. I have always purchased health insurance on the individual market. Obamacare was a godsend as I explained in several blog posts (here, here). My deductibles were always high, around $5000 to $6000. My wife returned to work after 26 years and we decided to use her employer's insurance. It is amazing how much cheaper it is with only a $1200 deductible. Even with great insurance, healthcare turns out to be a ripoff, a racket. Were I still on Obamacare, this bill would be paid almost entirely out of pocket.
My wife's three our ER visit for pneumonia diagnosed by an Urgent Care doctor went from a $50.00 urgent care co-pay to a $7500.00 bill. Our portion of the bill is $1830.73. This incident is worse than the medical event I had with my blood pressure scare where they charged me $5,000 for an hour and a half of ER use and 2 blood pressure pills.
My wife was coughing for a week and felt crappy. She told me that I gave her the cold that she had. On the Sunday after a week of a lot of coughing, she had some blood in her sputum. She figured she better go to the urgent care here in Kingwood. She had not sought any medical attention because it seemed like a bad cold and she did not have a fever or chills. She has Lupus and is keen about when something is serious, just a result of her chronic disease, or just a standard ailment.
I was off at an Indivisible Houston meeting when I got a call from her. She told me that the Xray showed that she had pneumonia and they wanted her to go to the ER immediately. My daughter picked her up and took her, while I raced from Downtown Houston back to the Memorial Hermann emergency room in Humble. I figured if they found pneumonia that needed an emergency room it must be bad.
My daughter who is starting med school this year but has some experience with her job in reading Xrays told my wife to send her a picture of the Xray, and to her, it looked bad.
We both got to the ER at the same time. She got settled into a room pretty quickly. We go there just before a big rush apparently. They hooked her up to the standard ER monitors and then did a chest Xray. It showed minimal pneumonia in one lung, unlike the blurry urgent care Xray that made the condition seem much more severe than a bad cold.
They still went ahead and gave her a saline IV. They took blood. They took urine. They checked her temperature which was normal, her oxygen level, which was normal, and her heart rate which was normal as well. They held us there for another hour to push an intravenous antibiotic and sent us off with a prescription for some antibiotics and cough medicine. We were there about three hours.
I am not a doctor, but I read and frequently speak on medical issues with my sister who is a doctor and my daughter who is a med student with a Masters in Biomedical Sciences. And they would all agree with the following.
When the Xray showed a tad of pneumonia, normal oxygen levels, good heart performance, and no fever, the prudent thing to do would be to give an antibiotic with instructions to see a primary care physician in a few days to measure improvement. Instead, they treated my wife like a commodity in a profit center.
ER Bill that constitutes legal theft (Cutout 1)
Note the ridiculous price of two influenza tests. Then there are more influenza charges in ER Bill Cutout 3. Remember she had no fever or any indications she had the flu. As the very nice nurses came in for all the tests, we were mostly unaware that they were performing this many.
ER Bill that constitutes legal theft (Cutout 2)
Just coming into the emergency room is a $3010.75 charge. Putting in an IV is $755.75, and the one-liter saline solution is $335.50. The chest Xray which was a computerized mobile unit costs $558.50. They gave her an electrocardiogram that costs $528.75. The other charges are just as obscene.
ER Bill that constitutes legal theft (Cutout 3)
ER Bill that constitutes legal theft (Cutout 4)
The total amount of this bill is unbelievable. It is theft. These are private companies who pay their staff as little as possible, encourage them to pile on charges irrespective of medical indications, and accumulate unimaginable profits that benefit a few investors and executives. It is the transfer of the disposable income of the masses to the few to the point that they cannot save or build wealth.
American taxpayers pay to help develop drugs. The pharmaceutical companies then finish the process and market the drugs at exorbitant prices. Hospitals run up charges because most people do not have a clue of the procedures the hospitals are charging for unbeknownst to the patient.
The only solution to the theft by our medical system is a single-payer Medicare for all system where no one purchases insurance but instead like current Medicare, pay a tax as a percentage of total income and capital gains. Later, reforms must ensure drugs developed with taxpayer dollars are kept low cost and profits shared with the U.S. Treasury. We must subsidize doctors' education with a promise to do primary care debt free at a good salary.
Our medical system problems are hard not because the issues are complicated. It is because our politicians are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Health care does not follow a free market model. Patients are always at a competitive disadvantage and cannot shop around when they need care.
We must learn the lessons of every industrialized nation. After-all, they are all more healthy than we are at a fraction of the cost. We must provide universal healthcare.
Also published on Medium.