NEWSFLASH: I am voting for Obama.I deserve health insurance! Barack's plan will outlaw the pre-existing conditions clause on insurance applications. This is my issue. It affects me. I worry about health care costs every single day, and it's making me sick.
Because of pre-existing health conditions, we have been denied coverage. We aren't poor enough or old enough to qualify for any low-cost programs. Occasionally when I tell a doctor I'm uninsured he will knock down the office-call charge to the rate the insurance companies pay, but not always. Many offices will not even book an appointment when they find out I have no insurance. I've been told this doesn't happen (always by people with health insurance) but it has happened to me.
When I am told I need a certain procedure (blood test, lab work, etc.) my first question is "How much will that cost?" I'm always surprised that nobody knows. The doctor doesn't, the secretary doesn't, even the billing department doesn't. They just know the code for the procedure. An insurance company has a certain rate they pay when they are billed, so that's what it costs. Since different insurance companies pay different amounts, there is often no definite fee. "It depends."
In August I went to a highly recommended new doctor for advice about hot flashes. I was required to pay the $225 new-patient fee when I checked in for my appointment. (Actually, I had to pay half of it over the phone when I scheduled.) I spent 5 minutes with the physician's assistant who listened to my woes and directed me across the hall for some blood work, explaining that until she had those results she would have no answers for me.
She left town, and it was 2 weeks until I heard back from her. I recieved the $1,100.00 bill for the lab work a full week before she called. A week later I got a notice that payment must be made in full immediately and I already had a $20 late charge.
Trying to reach my PA was crazy. Remember the days when a secretary just answered the phone and said, "Who's calling please?" Eventually, the physician's assistant's assistant called me back and said the doctor (who I still haven't ever seen) wanted me to have a CT scan because my blood test indicated I could have a tumor. Scary! I was transferred immediately to some other helpful person who gave me the appropriate phone number and the all-important code. No, she was sorry, but she had no idea how much this would cost.
The radiology department didn't know either, and the hospital billing department didn't know, but they'd let me know. In the meantime, I could have a tumor growing somewhere and we better find out about it. In this case, I was scheduled instantly even though they had no guarantee of my ability to pay.
A cute girl with troubled eyes pushed me into the cylinder and then told me to call my doctor for results on Wednesday. Although she already knew the results, she couldn't tell me. "It's above my pay grade," she said.
Two days passed slowly. Wednesday there were no results. Thursday morning the recording told me the doctor's office was closed until after Labor Day. Five more days passed slowly. I received the $3,300.00 bill for the CT scan and the $486.00 bill for the radiologist (to read the scan) the next Tuesday, but still my doctor hadn't returned my call.
Ten days after the CT scan I reached some poor innocent voice on the other end of the phone and unloaded all my frustration on her. Full of sympathy, she said someone would call me back within an hour. A different physician's assistant's assistant called, asking where I'd had my MRI done, because they hadn't received any results. I explained it wasn't an MRI, it was a CT scan AND I WANTED TO TALK TO A FLIPPIN' DOCTOR!!!!
Two days later the actual doctor called. She said there was no tumor, and she was not concerned that I could have cancer. She was concerned, however, that one ovary was larger than the other. She recommended that I have a hysterectomy. I told her I didn't have insurance. "Why don't you check with the hospital, get your ducks in a row, and schedule an appointment with me in a couple of weeks so we can talk about your options here." I asked her if this was urgent. What was her reasoning? What about the hot flashes?
"I'm not sure your hot flashes have anything to do with all this. It's not an urgent situation, but I think at your age it has to be done sooner than later. I'll transfer you to the front so you can make an appointment and we'll talk more then."
Well, my ducks are not in a row. The hospital financial aid guy said we made too much to qualify for any help. The hospital costs could be anywhere from $8,000-$15,000, and the doctor will charge about $2,500. Of course I'd also need an anestheisologist and a pathologist and a person to read the charts. And it would hurt!
The front desk answered. "Because you've been in before, your consultation with the doctor will only be $125. What's your insurance number? Oh?? Well, we'll need to put half of it on a credit card to book the appointment."
It gave me a hot flash.
I'm voting for Obama.