If I Had A $1,000,000

Let me just get this out there – having a brain tumor is life-changing. No, I don’t mean in terms of how I look at life now.  Rather, I am talking about the unintended consequences that we don’t think about when we are faced with this type of situation unless we are in it.

From what I’ve been told, recovery after brain surgery can vary from: having a quick and seamless recovery, to being in the fight of your life like I faced or you may never recover and remain in a diminished capacity.  And if that’s not enough to think about, the cost and toll of living as a brain tumor survivor can wear you down pretty easily.  Let’s talk about cost…

As kids, we are told that if we do well in school and pursue our dreams, we’ll make lots of money and live a happy life.  But what our teachers did not tell us as innocent students in elementary school is that sometimes, life throws us twists that come out of left field and blind side us – and leave us scrambling for solutions on how to solve them.  Growing up, I at least assumed that nothing could stop me if I did well in school and graduated college, let alone graduating law school.  After all, we work to make money to pay for all of life’s wants and needs.  Until you are admitted to the hospital, that is, and your money can no longer be spent on your wants.

When I returned home from a wonderful vacation in Nantucket two weeks ago, my wallet was thin.  Yet, it was well spent.  However, within the first few hours that I was home, the mailman delivered another bill for my MRI this past March that I currently pay on a payment plan and CVS called because my Keppra is ready to be picked up.  This leads me to my rant – the absurd costs of health care and health insurance.

For an MRI, my insurance company bills the hospital $4,900.  Yes, you read that correctly – approximately $5,000. I for one am extremely grateful that MRI machines exist.  But for the forty-five minutes, sometimes an hour, that I am in there, I find it hard to believe that that machine actually requires $4,900 to run, notwithstanding the plethora of MRI machines on site.  And I understand that the machine produces images but they are all viewable on a computer.

The next item on the bill: the cost billed by the technicians to read that MRI – $450.00.

Then there’s an associated cost for my doctor’s visit.  A measly $245.00.  For me, and I’d imagine others in my position, the doctor’s visit is the most important part of the entire process.  I get to hear progress from my own doctor’s mouth and view the images so that I can see the news for myself.

As for surgery, well I hope you’re sitting down because I don’t want to be the cause of any unintended fainting spells.  You’ll recall that I had gamma knife surgery last December.  The total amount billed from that one-day procedure alone was $92,000.  That’s for one day.  For my extended stay in July 2008 when I had the tumor removed and the surgery for the subdural hematoma, the hospital billed the insurance company $297,000.00.

Okay, so once the tumor was removed and my head was mended back together, I needed to rehab and did so at Gaylord Hospital.  For each day that I was there, our insurance was billed $2,600.00.  This was for my therapists, pens and paper, flash cards, alphabet charts, balancing beams and workout equipment.

The scary bottom line is this: If I didn’t have health insurance at the time, I would not be here because the procedure would not have been performed.  I am grateful for health insurance, however it continues to remain a problem for so many Americans today.

Fortunately, I am offered health insurance through my employer but for someone like me, even the insurance plan is costly.  For my co-pay to kick in this past year, I had to put up the first $4,000 of medical expenses.   When I called to make my payment on my account last week, I was informed that my “other” balance was going to be sent to collections soon if I did not pay the entire sum or apply to pay the balance on a payment plan.  After all said and done, this “other” balance was my procedure in 2012.  At the time my procedure was performed, I had not yet hit my deductible, so my portion of coverage was in excess of $2,000.  Add that to my 2013 balance and my total responsibility is $2,530.67.  Well, I guess my payment plan was just extended.

Some people go to work to provide for a family, pay their mortgage and have nice things.  What you cannot plan for is your health – you can only hope that you stay healthy each year.  If you don’t, not only will your personal world spin around, but your financial health will too.  Who is not going to try their best to afford to pay for their life?  And while I know hospitals are running businesses too, quite frankly, the extent of the costs seem somewhat criminal.

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