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Last summer I posted a diary about my daughter's partner, who suffered a health catastrophe while uninsured, because it sadly illuminated everything that's wrong with our health care 'system'. This healthy young man started having seizures out of the blue, suffered acute renal failure requiring dialysis due to non-stop seizures, and was found to have a brain tumor. Every avenue toward obtaining some kind of health insurance, either Medicaid or commercial, was blocked by deliberately constructed obstacles in his conservative Southern state. Rep. Grayson's right; the Republican health care plan? Get sick—hope you die quickly and cheaply.

The dust has settled since then, and in my family we have much to be thankful for...but America's health care "system" still sucks. Follow me for an update if you're interested.

My daughter's partner had a discharge interview with the hospital's billing department. At my suggestion he requested an appointment with the hospital social worker—and was repeatedly stiff-armed & put off. The hospital repeatedly tried to pressure my daughter to sign a declaration that she provided financial support to him, so they could get her (very limited) assets on the hook. She quite sensibly refused. At discharge her partner was presented with a bill totalling about $50,000. "Will that be cash or charge?". Um, well, let's see: lost his job due to North Carolina's Bankster melt-down 7 months earlier, minimal savings like every other hard pressed young worker...is there another option? He ended up meeting with social workers after discharge, and found himself down the rabit hole of Southern health insurance rules. Not eligible for Medicaid because it's extremely difficult to qualify (by design). Commercial insurance? With a brain tumor? Hahahahahahahahahahah.....

Well, North Carolina does have slightly subsidized 'risk pool' insurance for folks in his situation...oh, but gotcha! There's a 12 month 'pre-existing condition' provision, so it won't cover a nickel of his costs. Evidently this was designed to be a sick joke, sort of like pulling a chair away as some poor sucker is about to sit down.

Fast forward, to their credit the docs in North Carolina did the right thing and treated him without worrying about payment. MRI confirmed a brain tumor in an accessible location, "probably benign", and he elected to have it removed. More seizures, and the tumor grew 50% in just a few months. To the immense relief of all, it was successfully excised and turned out to be a benign cavernous angioma. Seizure drugs for at least the next six months, but a good prognosis long term.

Oh, and another bill for another $50,000. Cash or credit?

My daughter and her partner are spending this Thanksgiving holiday with us, and we're all supremely thankful for how it turned out...medically. He's ruined financially of course, $100,000 in debt and essentially unemployable. He's also uninsurable under our current system, unless real health care reform happens. Outlawing pre-existing condition clauses will be pointless without a widely available robust public option, because the for-profit insurance vampires will simply jack up the premiums to the sky for patients like him.

We'd been anticipating a wedding; now that's not going to happen, because my daughter would instantly be chained to her partner's crushing medical debt. "Well," she cheerfully informed us, "I guess our kids will just have to be bastards".

Ah, those Republican family values.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Originally posted to Ralphdog on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 06:39 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Tips for genuine health care reform. (9+ / 0-)

      Not just cosmetics and funneling tax dollars to the spreadsheet vampires.

      •  Happy Thanksgiving Ralphdog. (6+ / 0-)

        May you have cute little grand kids.

        Our billing specialist's husband almost died of pancreatitis (he's not a drinker). He lost his job while sick. He ran up unfathomable debts but the docs and hospital gave him multiple surgeries.

        He's still waiting to be approved for NC Medicaid and disability after getting rejected the first time.

        They found a old muscle car he was trying to restore 20 years ago and are valuing it at $3000 dollars. And he's still waiting for Medicaid.

        Insane.

        look for my DK Greenroots diary series Wednesday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

        by FishOutofWater on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 06:50:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This appears to be intentional down south. (5+ / 0-)

          Here in New York, people who are medically impoverished can generally get retroactive Medicaid so they aren't thrown out into the street, though you have to spend your own resources down first if you have any. Down south, it appears that most States have very intentionally made that impossible. I don't want to think it's because the (mostly white) affluent population doesn't want to pay for care for the (disproportionately black & Hispanic) poorer classes...but the thought has crossed my mind.

          •  This hurts white people like the man I described (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ladybug53

            who lost his job and his health insurance and every dime he had in savings by getting sick.

            But he's lucky.

            He came very close to losing his life several times.

            look for my DK Greenroots diary series Wednesday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

            by FishOutofWater on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 09:14:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Pay the bill. (6+ / 0-)

    Here is what I would do.

    First, I would write a letter to the hospital. My letter would thank them for all of the good work they have done.  I would then explain that due to the failure of our healthcare system, I would be in debt for a total of $100,000.00 if that is what the receipts total up to.

    I would then explain my financial situation, and that each month, I would send in a payment towards my debt of One Hundred Thousand Dollars.  Even if my payment was only $15.00

    I would then include my first check for $15.00 and I would then include a statement with something to the effect of, if an interest charge is attached I would void the agreement.

    But, hey that's just my opinion.  This would force the medical industry to either accept $15.00 payments from people like us, or make a move and change health care reform.

    You left off berry pie.  I want berry pie.

    "Hey, with religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

    by EarTo44 on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 06:52:15 AM PST

  •  This fellow's predicament (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dennisl

    is a great argument for all the young people out there who feel invulnerable .... you MUST buy insurance even if it is a high-deductible catastrophic policy.  This could happen to you.

    I am really enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 07:01:37 AM PST

    •  Some try that route; but vampires one step ahead (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, pale cold, codairem

      There are numerous documented cases wherein the spreadsheet vampires instantly revoke your insurance the moment you get sick. The most popular dodge: going through past medical records line by line, and canceling your insurance because you "failed to inform them" of that plantar wart back in 1973.

    •  Actually no (0+ / 0-)

      you MUST buy insurance even if it is a high-deductible catastrophic policy.

      Actually no.  You can just live like our ancesters did before there was health insurance.

      I hav personally lived without health insurance a number of times in my life.  Luckily, I didn't need it.  If something had happened, well so be it.

      Of course, insurance companies really like the idea that you MUST buy insurance-cause something might happen.

      •  It's the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clem Yeobright

        "if something had happened, well so be it" that is the subject of the diary.

        If you had had a catastrophic illness, the rest of us would have paid for your treatment.  Which would be great if we had a real socialized medical system, but we don't.  So your selfish idea is just to stick others with your bill.

        I am really enjoying my stimulus package.

        by Kevvboy on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 07:21:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Narrow minded (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, prodigal, codairem

          So your selfish idea is just to stick others with your bill.

          You call it selfish???  I call it reality and accepting the consequences.  Many people die because they don't have insurance.  Many people can't get treatment because they don't have insurance.  It is taking the risk because it is what has to be done.

          I won't call you selfish but I will call you small minded.

        •  So my selfish insurance company's idea (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jagger, ladybug53, Ralphdog, codairem

          is to stick the bill back on me when I get sick after getting as many payments as possible while I'm well, and my selfish society's idea is to get me to pay as much to an insurance company for as long as possible while I'm well and, if I get sick, to have "bills."

          This is not a health care system, this is a system designed to extract as much money as possible from the healthy while avoiding providing care.

          A health care system would actually provide health care.

          This system is all about money, not health care.

          "With all the wit of a stunned trout, prodigal stumbled clumsily into the midst of a discussion . . . " -- droogie6655321

          by prodigal on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 08:06:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry to hear about the debt... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Ralphdog, codairem, theKgirls

    People should not end up financially ruined for life due to medical expenses.  Any health care system that creates such a class of people is broken.  Seems to me that the only way to avoid this is a single payer system, with any deductibles waived in cases of financial hardship.

    And what about pumpkin cheesecake?

  •  For the Defense of Marriage Fans (6+ / 0-)

    The positive news for your daughter is that she is not legally liable for the debt.  Had they been married, she would have been on the hook.  The good Christians, who cry about protecting marriage, will ignore the fact that your daughter is better off not having entered into their sacred institution.  The Bible says you cannot serve both God and money.  When push comes to shove, we always know whose side this country is on.

    I'm happy that her partner is doing better. When he is done with his treatment, his best option is bankruptcy.      

  •  Is common law going to be a problem? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SlackwareGrrl

    I don't know what you call it down in the states, but basically the de-facto relationship of two people living together for a while.  I don't know that simply not marrying the guy is going to be a wholly effective dodge.

    (ps, if they're smart about what is in whose name....)

  •  wouldn't it make sense (0+ / 0-)

    to simply file for bankruptcy?  He isn't "financially ruined for life". Nothing of the sort.  

    •  The new bankruptcy law (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, manwithnoname, codairem

      is designed to ruin your life.  

      "With all the wit of a stunned trout, prodigal stumbled clumsily into the midst of a discussion . . . " -- droogie6655321

      by prodigal on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 08:08:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Timing is the issue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, prodigal

      You would want to make sure he is not going to incur major additional fees for treatment, first.  Let's say he files and then incurs an additional $20,000-$30,000 in bills.  Those post-bankruptcy bills will not be discharged and there are strict time limits on filing a second bankruptcy.  (For instance, I think the time frame between Chapter 7s is 8 years).  It also stays on your credit report for 10 years.  We are going to see many people who have filed bankruptcy once who will be precluded from receiving additional relief.      

    •  Actually... (0+ / 0-)

      I was thinking about the inability to purchase insurance, due to the pre-existing health thing, in addition to the debt.  If all goes well, "life" may have been a bit of an exaggeration.

  •  One other note on the high risk pool (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    It is still risk based so can cost from $1500-$3500 monthly

    •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, entlord1, codairem

      Not only does it exclude all pre-existing conditions for a full 12 months; not only do many providers in NC refuse to accept it;

      But it's classic junk insurance, complete with co-pays, deductibles, limits on prescription coverage...and it costs bundle.

      Mission accomplished!

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