The Sad Business of Dying

MedsMy family has always been exceptionally lucky when it comes to medical insurance.  Jim had a great job with a company that not only offered free healthcare benefits, they were the best healthcare benefits money could buy.  We never paid a copayment, deductible, or a percentage of treatment.  No money ever went out of our pocket for prescription drugs or durable medical equipment.  Everything was always covered, everywhere we went.

We no longer have that insurance, since Jim’s retirement due to disability from that awesome job.  However, we are lucky enough to still have health insurance coverage.  Gone are the days when everything medical was handed to us.  My last kidney surgery was not going to be performed unless I showed up at the surgical center with $500 to cover my percentage of the procedure.  The medications I needed following the multiple procedures cost us more than $100 out of pocket – a huge discount over what they would have cost if we had no insurance at all, but at the same time, that $100 is a big chunk of money to families struggling already to make ends meet.  Let’s not even speak of trying to come up with $500 to unblock a kidney – ridiculous.  What if a family doesn’t have that money?

I read an article today in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the family of Luis Rodriguez.  Diagnosed a year ago with acute myeloid leukemia, Luis and his family just made the bittersweet journey to Florida, where Luis will live out his final days surrounded by family after losing his home of 13 years due to the cost of his illness, combined with his inability to work and his wife’s need to cut her hours back to care for her dying husband.  This family went from being comfortable, able to provide things for their children, enjoying life to losing their home and barely scraping by – all due to illness.

I don’t claim to know the answer.  I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare, but this isn’t about politics.  There is a huge business in treating sick people – from the doctors and hospitals to the drug companies and pharmacies.

Maybe dying should be more about dignity and less about dollars.

 

It’s expensive to be dying.  It’s an expense so few of us are prepared to take on.  The bank doesn’t necessarily care that you have cancer and can’t go to work when your mortgage payment is due.  Walgreen’s doesn’t want to know that you have a life insurance policy that will more than cover your prescription medications when you die – you have to come up with the money now if you want to die comfortably.

Even if you can afford the medications you’ll need, Medicare and Medicaid aren’t going to cover the rest of your bills.  Sure, you might qualify for Social Security disability, but you’ll have to live at least three months to see it kick in, and by that time, many families are already drowning in debt.

 

 

 

It costs an awful lot of money to ALMOST die!

The picture below is not for the faint of heart.  If you are prone to heart palpitations, seizures or fainting spells, and have not taken your medication today, I warn you not to go any further.  If you are easily frightened at the movie theater, you may not want to read any more.  Go ahead, avert your eyes.  I warn you, this isn’t pretty.

This is my hospital bill from my recent experience with almost dying.  It leaves me wondering how many people they actually knock off when they see this kind of bill coming at them.  It certainly must not do much for repeat hospital business, but the undertakers must love it!

So, nearly $100,000 later, I’m still here, thank God, but now is the perfect time to rant on health insurance.  Because if this had happened just a few days later, I might not have had health insurance, and I’d be looking at selling these kidneys that failed me on the black market to pay for medical treatment.

Not that long ago, I probably would not have even looked at this bill.  When Jim was with Microsoft, we had what I will call The World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER.  In 14 years, we’ve had no copays, no deductibles, no costs for prescriptions, reimbursement for eye glasses, no referrals – nada.  It’s been healthcare bliss.

When Jim went out on disability, we had our COBRA premiums covered for a while.  But now those premiums are all ours.  And they’re scary.

That World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER now costs us just shy of $2000 a month.

Oh my, I should have put a warning there, too, huh?  Are you up off of the floor yet?  Dusted yourself off, rubbed the “are you freaking kidding me” out of your eyes?

That’s right – monthly health insurance for my family is almost $2000 a month.  And it’s great, awesome, amazing coverage.

But because we can’t afford to continue to pay $2000 a month, plus afford those luxuries we’ve become accustom to like eating, clothing, and a place to live, we’re going to be dropping the World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER and replacing it with something way less adequate.

For that reason, we’ve been looking at how much health care has been costing us.  For the girls, knock on wood, it’s minimal.  Other than well visits, the girls have rarely been to see the pediatrician.  For Jim, most of the bills are eye related, and we’ve been very fortunate that the VA Hospital will become his primary medical care at no cost to us.  But for me, the past year has been my unhealthiest.  I’ve been in the hospital four times – and of those four times, once was a week for a really serious infection, and another was my recent stay in ICU with that nearly dying thing.  And for that, we’ve been really lucky to have the World’s Best Health Insurance Coverage EVER.

But now we won’t.  And while our monthly health insurance bill is still looking like it might be in the range of almost $800, the coverage is going to be dramatically less.  I’d be looking at this $100,000 bill, and know that about 20% of it would be our responsibility.  And then there would have been a copayment for the emergency room.  And then there would have been a maximum put on the radiology services, so I’d owe some more there.  And then I’d have to pay my deductible for the year.

And then I’d be so grateful to have these kidneys returned to good health, so I could sell them on the black market and pay the hospital bills to get them healthy.

I won’t tell you there’s something wrong with the healthcare system in the United States.  You already know that.  But in case you see me selling pencils on the street corners, you’ll know I’m not trying to pay for another trip to Walt Disney World.  I probably just need an aspirin.