The prolonged, immensely painful 2010 health care debate was for me, a conceptual one. I had no personal experience of American health care other than a visit to the ER with a friend who had hit his head. I read the horror stories, watched Michael Moore's heart breaking 'Sicko' documentary, and listened to friends who had been screwed out of thousands of dollars by insurance companies and greedy hospitals.
But today, I had my very own American health care experience.
Some background: I was followed back to my car a couple of weeks ago by a thug looking for a fight in Hollywood. I tried my best to placate him, offered my hand to shake and even apologized to him so that he would leave. I literally tried everything to avoid a physical confrontation, but he would not be dissuaded. Luckily, I've spent many many years in boxing and various Martial Arts, so was able to to escape the situation without serious harm to myself (he wasn't quite as fortunate). However, I sustained a bit of a nasty cut on my eyebrow, and my hands were extremely swollen. I drove myself down to Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and waited a few hours to get treated. I had an X ray done of my hands, had a tetanus shot and 2 stitches in my eyebrow. I paid a $100 co-pay at the hospital and left pretty satisfied with the care I received (although in the UK, I would have paid absolutely nothing).
Anyhow, a bill arrived this morning from the hospital for $2063 (minus the $100 co-pay). My insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross, is paying precisely nothing towards it, because I have a $5000 deductible.
I rang the hospital to ask them about the bill, and they told me that the original bill was in fact $5150.02, and I had received a $2,987 'hospital discount'. I asked them to break down the bill and they told me the following:
X rays: $1644.50
Medical/Surgical supplies: $1153.43
Emergency Room General Classification: $2224.41
Preventative Care Services: $127.68
Apparently, because of the fact that I needed X Rays done, it put my general classifcation up to a '3' out of a possible 6 (the higher your classification, the more you pay). So essentially, I paid $2224.41 because I needed X Rays, then paid another $1644.50 to have them actually done.
I'm not sure who to be angry with - the insurance company that I pay thousands of dollars a year to, or the hospital for charging outrageous and completely meaningless fees.
Don't get me wrong, Cedars Sinai is by all accounts a great hospital with wonderful staff and doctors, but how it expects the average person to fork out thousands of dollars for extremely basic medical care is beyond me.
I'm going to fight the bill because it is ridiculous - no one should have to pay that kind of money out of pocket for any type of necessary medical care.
I'll keep you posted on the outcome.