Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Otis vs. St. Francis Hospital

Last year, my mother had a heart attack. She didn't even know it was a heart attack while she was having it. She thought she had a respiratory infection and that's why she was having such trouble breathing.

My father called me that morning and told me she wasn't feeling well. He asked me to check in on her and bring her some lunch. The request raised a red flag for me. He wouldn't ask me to do something like that unless it was serious, so I picked up some food and drove across town.

What breathing my mother could accomplish that afternoon was pained and raspy. She could barely get the food down and eating isn't exactly something we have a problem doing in my family. I didn't know what was wrong with her but one thing was for sure. This was no freaking respiratory infection.

She and my father had thought about taking her to the Quick Care in West L.A. the night before, but knew the visit would cost them thousands of dollars with the shitty HMO coverage they had; the only plan she could get approved for after years of history with skin cancer.

I didn't give a shit. After offering to take her in myself and getting rejected, I implored her to have my father take her in when he came home from work. Then I got on the phone with him and told him the same thing.

24 hours later, my mother had a 95% blockage removed from her central coronary artery at UCLA hospital.

Almost a year later, they're still trying to pay for it all. Insurance covered some, but not all of the mid-five figures in costs they acquired. And insurance covers hardly any of the hundreds of dollars a month she has to fork out now for meds.

My parents do the right thing. If anything, they do the right thing too often. And Otis did the right thing too, almost exactingly so when he tried to pre-pay for his youngest son's birth in an act of fiscal responsibility my credit-rating challenged self can barely fathom.

Read Otis' story St. Francis Hospital: The Real Cost of Having a Baby and tell me you don't want to punch a bureaucrat by the end.

My country needs real health care reform, and badly. My mom needs to stop living in fear of losing the little health insurance she still has by getting sick again. And people like me and the estimated 25% of Americans who are freelancers, independent contractors, or part-time workers need access to the kind of coverage our corporate worker bee peers enjoy.

For the record, I have a lot of problems with the bill out there. Frankly, I don't think anyone should be forced to pad the insurance industry's already overflowing coffers by being required to purchase coverage from them (only to get denied for shit later, just like Otis and my mom).

But something needs to be done. Read Otis' post and see if you don't agree with me (and I'm sure you will tell me if you don't, comments are right down there).


SirFWALGMan said...

I agree. I am somewhat torn by Scott Brown getting elected as the stopper.. in an ideal situation the reps and dems would now have to talk about Healthcare and maybe get something together that is fiscally responsible and will actually help people. Of course our government is more like bickering babies so I do not hold too much hope out.

Jennifer said...

Wow, I had no idea you were going through this last year, but I'm happy that your mom made it through.

I'm struggling with breathing problems right now but don't want to get tests run because my shitty insurance won't cover them. But your story is making me rethink putting it off and hoping it goes away. The debt may be a small price to pay...

Thanks for sharing your story.

Gamecock said...

It's not the insurance companies, it's the health care providers that rape you.

Noops said...

I'm from the UK and of all the things to complain about over here one thing I would never say a bad word about is our NHS service. I spent 2 days in hospital last June and although it wasn't an experience I'd want to repeat, I am so thankful for the fact that I had a serious kidney infection treated and walked out of the hospital with no debts. I am happy that my tax money goes towards giving care to everyone regardless of wealth or opportunity, it is a small price to pay IMO. Good luck now that Mass. has voted Republican.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with you. It seems crazy to me that health care can break us financially just so we can live 20 years later. My insurance is good for disasters; so if I fall off a mountain or if a mountain lion tears my head off while I'm running on a trail, I'm good; otherwise it's a drain on my finances. I truly wonder if the taxes I would pay for a socialist system would be a lot more than what I pay for health insurance now. I really doubt it.

CJ said...

I agree. Something MUST be done. But the Obamacare plan Dems are trying to ram through in secret is a disaster.

It's a HUGE giveaway to health care companies by forcing Americans to buy private care whether they want to or not.

It's going to cause the deficit to go up because it only promises to cut "fraud and abuse" from Medicare without actually enacting any reforms to do so (meaning they'll just forget about that part later).

And it includes ZERO provisions to actually control the cost of services provided by hospitals.

Why not common sense reform?

1) Portability.
2) No denial for pre-existing conditions.
3) Some limited cost caps for health care coverage (especially for those with pre-existing conditions).
4) Expansion of Medicare to cover more of the poor.
5) Medical malpractice reform.
6) Allow health care companies to sell across state lines.

I'm no expert. So I'm not sure what else can help control costs. But I know there are some smart people out there who we should listen to.

karichuckroryskylar said...

I'm sorry to read about your mom's situation. I don't really agree with the bills that are in the senate or house, but something has to change. Our elected officials really need to start thinking out of the box. (although I have zero faith they will.) A few months ago I read a really interesting article in The Atlantic, which I think offers some different ideas. It's a shame our politicians are so reluctant to stray from the current system.

AgSweep said...

Absolutely right on. There is no corner of the devastation of our current healthcare system I don't see. I am an Independent Contractor with the courts. Thankfully my husband is a federal employee and carries my health care (for which we pay >$330.00 per mos w/a $1200 per person deductible) It's good coverage but it's not free. I have two college aged children who no longer qualify to be covered on our plan. The mountain lion prevention plan for those two adds another $300+ per month to my bill, but doesn't add much coverage, but it may keep them out of debtors prison in case of a catastrophe. My father-in-law is on medicare and hits the donut hole where he has to shell out $300+ per month for meds.

For my job, in family court, I get to decide which parent has the better plan to cover the children and then divide between them any uncovered costs, and in the end, try to make them pay each other. Just to make my day as a taxpayer in cases where the kids are on public coverage the State shows up to tell me how much they are spending per child. Broken doesn't even begin to cover it.

Frankly, no matter what gets done it's gonna be a mess but if nothing gets done it will remain a tragedy.

There is no constitutional mandate for public schools. They came about through activism and a belief that all Americans are entitled to an education. Shouldn't we be saying the same thing about healthcare?

clearspine said...

I wrote about this in a post in October. I deal with insurance companies on a regular basis, and my patients have horror stories out the wazoo. From 20 years of work in health care, here's my perspective: