Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Cost of the Mystery Bruise

So, I am now getting hospital bills rolling in from the whole mystery bruise/skin cancer experience in January...and it looks like our responsibility after insurance pays will be about $5,000 (we have a $5,000 deductible per person--don't get me started on that. Right before I was diagnosed, we had looked into paying for private insurance, but after doing the math, we'd end up paying about the same out of pocket with the monthly payments that would go along with a private plan that covers what we'd need, and I'm not even sure that I could find a private company that would insure me anymore).

At OHSU, they split the faculty bill and the hospital bill into two separate bills handled by (apparently) two separate offices. So now I'm trying to make payment arrangements with two separate offices and trying to explain our situation, which is that we can commit to X per month, and I understand that may or may not be what you require patients to pay, but that is all we can do.  We are budgeted to the penny--we know exactly where our money goes, and very little of it goes to "fun" or discretionary income that we can pull from. We know exactly how much we can pay each month and that is all we can do. Since Justin is in construction and his wage varies depending on the job, some months we may be able to do more, but we can't commit to that always.

Anyway, so far, I've only been able to leave voicemails that I'd like to make payment arrangements, so I've yet to talk to an actual person, but I'm dreading it. I understand that they provided a service for which they should be paid...for which we WANT to pay them....but seriously, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. I can commit to making a payment each month...but I'm guessing that I won't be able to commit to paying what they want me to pay (since they say in huge letters on the bill that payment in full is due within 30 days), and I'm kind of dreading that conversation.

I'm imagining that they may threaten to send us to collections if we can't pay what they want each month. I've heard different things about whether or not a hospital even can send you to collections if you're making a payment each month. I'd always heard that they couldn't send you to collections if you were paying something every month, but lately I've heard more and more stories to the contrary.

The only positive in this situation is that our ridiculous deductible has actually been met this year...which means that we could actually seriously talk about having baby #2 this year since the deductible wouldn't be an issue. Although, admittedly, there's not much of a timeline to make that happen. And I know it sounds a little crazy to be talking about having a baby in the face of all this, and I'll probably get a nasty anonymous comment saying "If you can't afford your medical bills, what makes you think you'll be able to afford another baby?!"

So to cut that off at the pass, I'd just like to say that it isn't that we can't afford the medical bills, it's just that there's a huge difference between an unexpected medical expense which the hospital expects to be paid in full within 30 days of being billed, and the extra expenses that go along with having a baby...which we'd have nine months to prepare for.

Also, it's really crazy to me that our responsibility is still $5000 even with insurance. I feel like it's a testament to the fact that something about the state of medical care in our country needs to be changed. I don't have the right answers, but I only know that it doesn't seem to be working right now.


  1. Amen, friend!

    If it's any consolation, we've been in a similar insurance situation more than once and have been able to make payment arrangements with what we could afford. Prayers that you'll have an understanding voice on the other end of the line when you finally get a person!

  2. How very frustrating. I'm frustrated for you!!!

    I hope you can get this figured out and get on a reasonable payment plan. I don't have the answers but I agree something has to change.

  3. I don't usually post on blogs, but I felt I should let you know that if you set up a payment plan; even if you only pay $0.01 a month they can not legally send you to collections and if they threaten to send you to collections when you try to set up a payment plan it is against the law. I just thought that bit of information would ease your mind a little. I have been in medicine for over 12 years and my patients care always trumps me getting paid. You can also barter with the offices to lower the cost you owe. I am not sure if they are giving you your insurances rate or if they are just privately billing you, private billing is always going to be more. You can also ask to pay the medicare contract rate; which is bare minimum. Hope this helps a little. Nothing burns my biscuits more then the greedy medical field (and I am in it!). We have lost sight of why we are in it in the first place; to care for the sick.

  4. Ugh, that stinks! I'm with you on the medical bill crap. Our insurance has changed in the past two years and we only had to spend $300 out of pocket for Brady, this child will cost us probably at least not more. It irritates me that the insurance companies don't actually pay the hospitals what they bill out, they have a contracted amount but for us, it's that cost. Wrong on so many levels.

    and i say, go for it with #2 :)

  5. Insurance is such a racket. I don't know what the answer is with private insurance/Obamacare and I'm not educated enough on Obamacare to argue for or against it, but I do know that our system needs an overhauls.

    We're on a High Deductible Health plan - I think our deductible is 3500 per person or 7000 for a family. The year Thomas was born I met mine easily, and then with T's surgery we met our family deductible, so we seriously crammed in every single thing we needed that year: Physical Therapy for injuries, xrays, dermatology stuff. It sucks to meet the deductible, but when you get there, I say take advantage! So baby #2 sounds like a great idea :)

  6. Ugh so frustrating Meredith. I cannot even begin to express how much I hate insurance. Chad and I have discussed many times that with the way we live our lives (lots of natural homeopathic remedies and regular chiro visits) insurance becomes absolutely worthless. We would get rid of it completely if it wasn't for the safety net with big potential needs, like a chronic illness or car accident.

    I just finished paying the bills for my December miscarriage, which was covered by insurance. All told, we will pay more than half for the miscarriage than what we will for our non-insured home birth in September. And we even have "good" insurance. Total crap. :-/

  7. Most places will agree to a payment plan, it just may take a bit of firmness. It costs them more money to send it to collections (plus then they don't collect the whole thing) so it makes sense for them to agree to a payment plan. When Brent had physical therapy and co-pays were 100+ a week not to mention the insurance cost, we flat out told them that they could bill it to us all at once and we would pay it all but that we would have to do a payment plan and we were able to work something out. I know my parents have been able to make similar arrangements on many occassions.

    If I chose my employers insurance policy, we would be looking at a $5k deductible as well. Thankfully, my husband's plan has yet to hit that level of deductible yet and we are still able to pick between the two. Insurance has just gotten so increasingly messy, however, I think as the government continues to get involved like they are, it's only going to get worse. I am pretty upset that FSA is going to be reduced from 5K a year to $875 per family, this has always been how we cover our deductible and our insurance portion every year!

  8. I had no problem setting up a payment plan with our hospital two different times in the past couple of years. Once we paid a little over $100 a month for a bill and when we had a second one I asked if we could pay $25 a month on the second bill and they said yes, but it had to be auto-debited which was just fine by me. Good luck!

  9. First of all, I'm saving your post to show to all these *itchy women who complain about tricare (the ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FREE insurance program for active duty military and their dependents). Second of all, despite it being none of my business, I say HAVE ANOTHER BABY!! You'll NEVER be able to 'afford' it, so you can't really wait for that. With all the money in the world, we'll still 'need' more. And I feel like, based on your pinterest boards and various other comments, you're getting itchy for another one. And I know that itch- I have four kids ;). Good luck, and I'm glad that for five grand, you're cancer free!

  10. Ugh, how frustrating. I really hope you're able to get it all sorted out without too much headache. The whole structure of cost of medical care in this country is just disgraceful. I could rant on this topic for ages. I'm really sorry you're dealing with this and I don't at all blame you for thinking about trying to squeeze in baby #2 this year now that your deductible is met! That just seems smart to me!

  11. I feel you sister. My unexpected medical expenses last year were SO freaking ridiculous under our 'private' high deductible plan that when we did our taxes and calculated out what we had to pay out of pocket, I cried. A lot. It was over 7k total, WITH insurance. Disgusting.

    They can't send you to collections. But contacting the offices and insurance companies is beyond painful and annoying. This post brings back a lot of memories for me and makes me really angry at insurance coverage in America. And I'm in health care, so you'd think I'd be able to stand up for companies that help pay my salary. But no. It just sucks too much to support our ridiculous insurance system in the States.

    Hang in there!

  12. Such crap. Like I said on facebook, insurance is such a necessary evil.

    We are still trying to pay off medical bills from Cohen's tube surgery in October. Then I just got a bill for over 1k just for wearing a holster (to monitor my heart for my dizzy spells) which of course turned out to be nothing... you better believe I broke down after getting that bill. Ugh.

    So sorry, and I hope you guys can work out a payment system that works for you.

  13. I am really sorry to hear this, friend. I would feel completely helpless and stressed out if I were in your shoes. I wish I had some insight to offer, but I don't know how that works as far as them sending you to collections. I, like you, have heard both sides...yes they can, no they can't if you're paying something. Hoping for good news - the best you can find!

  14. From what I understand, Collections is for people who aren't paying bills. It costs the hospital money to go to Collections (as they have to pay a certain percentage to the collection agency) so they try as hard as they can to stay away.

    Also, call the hospitals and keep trying to talk to people, because I'm positive that they'd rather have a small amount of money from you than send you to collections. Hospitals put people on payment plans all the time, so don't be worried!

    <3 <3 <3

  15. Bah...I'm so sorry you're dealing with this! Right now I running on a hamster wheel with the insurance company and hospital to get Gabby's delivery bill paid. It should be covered but you know insurance companies....

    I'm in huge disagreement with Obama care but I agree that something has to be done with the insurance company situation of this country. The fire department [Jim's employer] and the city have been in legal battles these past few months over changes they want to make to our coverage. Our deductible could go to $10,000 a year which um...WHAT'S THE POINT OF INSURANCE THEN?! Some families have actually stopped trying for babies until this gets settled appropriately and I even know one female firefighter got induced right before the new year [just a few days before her edd] to avoid such a high price tag. What a shame these people have such control over us!!

  16. I hope they work with you! It's such a terrible situation.
    For what it's worth, in 2010 I had some horrible migraines and ended up having to go to the ER, a neurologist, etc. When the bills started rolling in, it was a lot of money, even after my insurance coverage. And each separate hospital/doctor's office that billed me let me set up payment plans. When they told me one number, I countered with a lower one. As long as you're paying SOMETHING, I don't think there's anything they can do.
    Good luck!

  17. I truly find it insane that you are responsible for $5,000, with insurance. Truly - when I read your Tweet last week, I was stunned.

    It sounds like you have the right attitude and the right approach to make it work, but sometimes life just isn't fair. And often, insurance seems to prove that.

  18. Just wanted to chime in and say that I'm pro-having a baby when you've already met your deductible. It's thrifty! :)

  19. Good luck with it all! While we're on a deductible plan we are lucky that it is not a high deductible plan. Last year when I had my surgery I met mine & had the same baby thought. The thought of a "free" insurance wise baby is tempting.

  20. OH my gosh, I'm so sorry. speaking from personal experience, outstanding medical bills are awful. I hated the calls from the hospital that my husband and I would receive and they procedure for which we had an enormous balance was a horrifically sad one. If it's any shining light, outstanding medical bills don't affect your credit. ;/

  21. I say that if your deductible is already met then you are in a great position to have Baby #2. No time will be perfect but it certainly will be easier financially in the longer run if you don't have to meet the deductible a 3rd time to have Baby #2. $5,000 is $5,000!!

    Maybe going through the Mystery Bruise debacle was meant to strengthen you and put you in this position at the very beginning of the year so Baby #2 could join your family.


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