Posted Friday February 4, 2011
Mitch McConnell had his gall bladder out today. Only instead of his current job with fabulous health insurance (provided by the government I might add), he works for a real estate agency that doesn’t provide health care benefits. He’s young (I told you this was a parallel universe—he might as well enjoy it), so he didn’t think he needed it. Yet. Thought he’d buy it later when he could afford it, or land a job somewhere as he got older that would provide coverage. Oooops.
So one day (after a particularly fabulous 12 ounce steak with bearnaise sauce, a loaded baked potato and death-by-chocolate-cake) while out to dinner celebrating two home sales in one month (we’re still in the recession in this universe), Mitch’s normally svelte abdomen expands much like a hot air balloon readying for flight. After several hours of various contortions, vainly trying to separate his ribs further from his pelvis to relieve the pressure, his attention to the pain is replaced by violent vomiting and diarrhea. He goes to the emergency room. At least he didn’t call an ambulance. That will save him some money.
He spends 2 hours in the ER where he is given medicine to stop the vomiting and the pain. He has an ultrasound of his gall bladder that does not show any stones. Too bad. Because the ER doc still thinks it’s his gall bladder. The doctor wants to admit him but Mitch is now feeling better and is quite conscious of the fact that his bills are piling up. So he asks to go home and continue the evaluation as an out patient. (He’s a smart guy.)
Hospital cost for the ER visit (includes labs and meds): $ 1300
ER doctor’s charge: $ 240
Ultrasound $ 250
Radiologist charge to read ultrasound $ 150
Total: $ 2040
But he won’t get those bills for a few weeks. I mean he was there for only 2 hours. How bad could it be? And he was sick. What was he supposed to do?
The ER doc arranges for Mitch to have a nuclear scan of his gall bladder and follow up with a surgeon (the ER doc in this universe is quite committed to patient care). Mitch is an ideal patient and actually has the scan done, the memory of his episode the night before offsetting any inclination to put it off. The scan shows his gall bladder is not working and will probably cause him further problems. By the time he gets the results back though (5 days later) he’s feeling better and decides to cancel the appointment with the surgeon. Which is okay. Unless the gall bladder is obstructed or infected, it doesn’t need to come out…although nobody actually told him that because he never saw the surgeon (who may have told him to remove it ASAP because that’s what the surgeon gets paid to do…)
But the other reason to have the darn thing removed is continued episodes of pain and vomiting, which Mitch started for the second time shortly after meatloaf and Monday night football. This time he was too sick to go home from the emergency room, and whoosh, faster than you can say upchuck, his little green gall bladder was in a jar in the pathology lab.
Hospital charge, same day surgery, pre-op, recovery room and post op: $ 4,000
Surgeons fee, 20 minute laparoscopic GB removal (the little scars): $1600
Anesthesiologist’s fee (20 minutes of passing gas) $ 1400
Second ER visit with blood work, meds, doctor’s charge: $ 2,300
CT scan of his abdomen $3000
radiologist charge to read CT $ 1500
Total: $ 13,800 WOWWEEEE!!! And consider: all of this in less than 24 hours!
Mitch will be feeling better 4 weeks later when the bills start coming in, making him sick all over again. He will owe over
$ 14,000 for an illness he did not cause and could not predict or prevent. Mitch will wipe out all of his savings and will have to borrow to pay his bills.
Now, just to add insult to injury, if Mitch had insurance the charges would have been the same, but the required payments would have been reduced to perhaps half as much (because the insurers, following the lead of Medicare, negotiate for lower rates). So Mitch, uninsured, will have to fork over the whole amount, whereas his neighbor with insurance is only charged around 6500, and only actually pays about 1000 (for deductible and copays.)
Mitch, I think you’re going to need another job. But then, you’re probably just a slacker who just deserves what he gets. I mean
you made some bad choices man…
Stay tuned…No one escapes the vicissitudes of life and illness in the parallel universe.
*Max Baucus gets raucous (able to buy a gun, but not get treatment for his schizophrenia)
**John Boehner develops SICCA syndrome (dry eye) —qualifies for insurance under health reform but can’t afford it, leading to his arrest for not obeying the mandate, and lots of crying (if he could only make tears)
***Bernie Sanders travels to the future under his proposed single payer health plan and lives to be 105
****Barack Obama’s mother is re-incarnated under her son’s health reform plan…as a middle aged woman with ovarian cancer whose copays and deductibles (after she has purchased the mandatory coverage) for surgery and chemotherapy result in her losing the family home, which she has defaulted on to pay her medical bills. Son gives up college to work at McDonald’s to help her out.
******But the most stunning news of all: Democrats are able to bring themselves to discussion of malpractice reform! Republicans are actually interested in solving fiscal challenges! Both parties going to bat for business and people at the same time! In their retirement, dedicated public servants George Vionovich, Dave Hobson and Ted Strickland brain storm new ways to attract business (and working people) to Ohio, freeing up business from the huge burdens of health care coverage by making Ohio the first state in the nation to have a single payer health plan. This not only provides basic insurance to all our residents, it lowers human resource costs for business, simplifies the tax code for residents and businesses, and results in an increase in business investment in Ohio, jobs, working population and tax dollars sufficient to make Ohio the wealthiest state in the nation (thereby also adding 12 seats to Congress in the 2020 census). The Ohio State Legislature is awash in funds for education, infrastructure, safety personnel and parks. Ohioans’ quality of medical care, and satisfaction with health measures (led by the Cleveland Clinic Consortium for Excellence) exceed all others in the nation…oh, and we’re spending less per person than anywhere else in the country…
Oh, sorry, guess I was dreaming…