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medical bankruptcy
A study released Thursday [pdf] by the American Journal of Medicine finds a huge increase—nearly 20 percent—in medical bankruptcies between 2001 and 2007. Sixty-two percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were tied to medical expenses. Three-quarters of those who filed for bankruptcies in 2007 had health insurance.
Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations. Three quarters had health insurance. Using identical definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6%. In logistic regression analysis controlling for demographic factors, the odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause was 2.38-fold higher in 2007 than in 2001. […]

In 2007, before the current economic downturn, an American family filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of illness every 90 seconds; three quarters of them were insured.

Since 2001, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems has increased by 50%. Nearly two thirds of all bankruptcies are now linked to illness.

How did medical problems propel so many middle-class, insured Americans toward bankruptcy? For 92% of the medically bankrupt, high medical bills directly contributed to their bankruptcy. Many families with continuous cover- age found themselves under-insured, responsible for thou- sands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. Others had private coverage but lost it when they became too sick to work. Nationally, a quarter of firms cancel coverage immediately when an employee suffers a disabling illness; another quarter do so within a year. Income loss due to illness also was common, but nearly always coupled with high medical bills.

causes of medical bankruptcy

Note that this is data from 2007, before the great recession began, meaning the picture has likely become more bleak in the last five years. Also discouraging is the evidence that just having health insurance is no magic bullet. Costs for prescription drugs, hospitalizations and the need for chronic care for conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease and psychiatric illnesses—even with insurance—were the most frequent causes for medical bankruptcy, with hospital costs leading.

The Affordable Care Act will address some of these issues, but certainly not all. Health care reform that gets at the biggest drivers of costs still has to be addressed. It won't happen in the current political climate, not with a Republican-controlled House and a Senate in paralysis because of the minority's obstruction, not to mention an extremely robust health care industry lobby.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Dream Menders, Single Payer California, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  To Begin With Who Can Get it Together to FILE for (5+ / 0-)

    bankruptcy except middle and upper class people?

    I wonder if the figure summing those filing for bankruptcy with all the lower end people who were otherwise cleaned out by illness would be a lot higher?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:18:02 AM PST

    •  I did, while making 14K/year (0+ / 0-)

      of course, I had to get someone else to pay for it... was about $4000.00 all told.

      "I took a walk around the world, To ease my troubled mind. I left my body laying somewhere In the sands of time" Kryptonite 3 doors Down

      by farmerchuck on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 10:00:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, ladypockt

      My first thought was if you factored in people too poor to file in the first place the numbers might be a lot higher.

    •  advice I read was don't file until (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      things are actually looking better for you.

      with difficulty, one can get most of the collection calls stopped by requiring mail contact only or avoided by giving a new cell phone number to almost no one. And of course, they will repo anything that is being financed anyway, whether or not you have "declared" bankruptcy.

      Until you are on good enough footing to stay on top of everything, the fact of being bankrupt won't be improved anyway.

  •  Republican Health Plan. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    farmerchuck, OldDragon

    Eat NOTHING and Die.

    It was eat S***, but then they realized that they could charge the poor for that, and simultaneously pontificate on the virtue of "no free rides."


    One of these days, I'm gonna learn that I'm only really good at convincing people when I'm being a wiseass.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:35:07 AM PST

  •  Yes, but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's important to have some perspective on this study.  

    1. This is a study of people who actually declared bankruptcy.  Right away, that is a self-selected group of people who may have a better understanding of their options when they face a large debt burden.  So when you conclude that having health insurance is no magic bullet, you should probably bear in mind that people with health insurance may have been more aware of their options and thus were able to escape some of their debt burden by declaring bankruptcy.

    2. By declaring bankruptcy, you can get out from under certain debts, but not others.  For example, you still need to pay student loans after declaring bankruptcy.  If student loans were your primary reason for wanting to declare bankruptcy, you wouldn't bother going through the process.  This raises the possibility that among debtors, people with medical debt will be over-represented in successful bankruptcies.

    3. Changes in the bankruptcy law between the original study and this one probably changed the mix of people who could successfully declare bankruptcy.  The difference in the two numbers is not interpretable as an indicator of changes in medical debt.

  •  My family has felt this pinch... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    randallt, marina

    My mother passed away from a two year battle with cancer in early 2010, she was uninsured. At the time, my family was not in dire economic circumstances, but in the two years since, we have been reeling from the cost of her treatments.

    Hospitals in our hometown would quote us a price for a simple procedure or test, then bill us three or four times the amount, even after we paid the initial quote in cash. It got to the point she had to fly to Mexico for treatment because the costs in the United States were so out of control (Mexico cost approximately 1/2, still not cheap). A week in the hospital would cost tens of thousands of dollars, so my dad quit his practice and began to tend to my mother full-time at home. This was horribly mentally and physically taxing to him and my family, there is nothing worse than watching the vibrant, strong woman who raised you waste away to a frail and disoriented shell.

    After she died, the hospitals continued to bill us for procedures that had been completed months beforehand. We still haven't tallied up the total amount, we are too sickened and upset with the way we were treated to do so, but we estimate it cost between $150-200 thousand dollars.

    The system is so completely broken when hospitals and insurance companies monopolize it. The cost of healthcare has gotten so out of control, that even those with the savings to pay, who decided against purchasing insurance, are washed out with the tide of bills and frivolous fees that are tacked on every time a doctor sneezes. A five minute consultation with a doctor costs hundreds of dollars, yet the orderlies and nurses who do most of the caring get paid near poverty level wages.

    I myself do not have insurance, and fear what will happen if I get injured or sick. I have never been a patient at a hospital in my life (even born at home), as my parents were always able to care for me at home, I suppose I have been lucky for the past 23 years.  

    Sometimes I wonder,if those who oppose healthcare reform have ever borne witness to the human and monetary cost that our current, for profit, system of healthcare really imposes on people. Any one who claims to have studied the Constitution would have also studied the Federalist Papers and other corollary documents. There is no way they could have missed the blatant references made by the authors to a government that helps protect the people for the common good.  

    When hospitals are allowed to engage in such price gouging, propagated by the insurance industry, and held sacred by the 1%, it is a violation of the governments purpose to protect the common good. There is nothing good about the system. Anyone from a nation with universal healthcare knows this, and the only ones there who disagree are those in a position to profit from the system changing.

    This study comes as no surprise. My family is not destitute, yet, but my father, at  age 64, has to go back to work in order to save what little we have left. Now, retirement is a whisp of a dream, and the woman he loved won't be there to help.

    "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -Goethe

    by sprint1745 on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 10:02:34 AM PST

    •  And how many people can afford insurance? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mumtaznepal, DSPS owl, LarryNM, splashy

      It's not cheap and getting higher all the time.  And it sounds like if you have it, it won't matter anyway, because they will cancel you the minute you get sick.  The problem is out of control costs and no one wants to deal with that because that is our free capitalistic system at work.

      Sorry about your mom and all you've been through.  When my sister in law died my BIL paid bills for years till he finally paid it off.  My husband died of cancer but he was at the VA.  I think about that sometimes.  I could have had a lot of bills if it weren't for the VA.

      •  VA hospitals... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cocinero, LarryNM

        So many rely on the VA for coverage, and although they are stretched to the limit on what they can provide, without them many sick people would have even less access to proper care.

        Costs of healthcare have risen at an exponential rate, and I believe a lot of the blame lies at the feet of the insurance industry. Since they have the leverage to negotiate with the hospitals over what they are charged, while those paying out of pocket are stuck with whatever the hospital deems necessary.

         I don't understand why a hospital charges $20 for a dose of asprain that costs them .01. A single IV drip costs over $100. An ambulance ride $600. They claim they have to charge the prices due to the high volume of care they give out to people unable to pay. But, those unable to pay are treated with the bare minimum then kicked out onto the street. Somewhere along the line the money disappears into a black hole and its certainly not going to the nurses, residents, or orderlies who do the lions share of the work. The doctors get a healthy cut, but even they get paid a paupers wage compared to the salary drawn by the chairmen, the ceos and top executives at the hospital and insurance cos.  

        HealthCare is such doublespeak anyways. Hospitals care no more for your health than they do for their profits. Few doctors still believe the Hippocratic Oath, and abide by the important principals it seeks to imbue upon the profession.

        "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -Goethe

        by sprint1745 on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 01:53:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  your family's losses are huge (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dkamus, cocinero

      I'm so sorry.

    •  are you 23 yr. old? (0+ / 0-)

      if so, you might be able to buy a reasonably priced individual policy.

      •  I got off of this train (6+ / 0-)

        as a longtime contract/freelance worker.

        I had been paying many hundreds per month for not-particularly-super (so I thought) coverage but then when I actually needed to use the insurance, they refused to cover things that I thought were covered and ended up requiring so much administrative overhead that I lost weeks of work on the telephone, chasing documents, sending faxes, on hold, etc.

        When all was said and done, I'd paid $many thousands for insurance that had only been willing to pay $a few hundred, the rest ended up in collections for some time before I gave up and paid out of pocket, they cancelled the policy on me anyway, and basically said "so sue us."

        If I'd never bought the damned policy in the first place, I'd be thousands richer right now and have a better credit rating.

        Never again. Might as well just pay out of pocket rather than buy a private individual policy. They pretty much disclaim all coverage right out the gate, then cover even less in the end, all while costing you twice to ten times what regular employees pay to get full coverage.

        -9.63, 0.00
        I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

        by nobody at all on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 08:29:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I would rather... (0+ / 0-)

        I would rather it be picked up by whomever employs me. I currently don't have a job, and there is no way I can afford the premiums right now. While (as far as I know) I am perfectly healthy, the premiums are still far outside of my budget. Between my car payment, cell phone, rent, gas, food, and credit card, health insurance seems like a waste. I understand that if I get sick, it will cost an arm and a leg (without insurance, quite literally), but its a risk I'm just going to have to take.

        "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -Goethe

        by sprint1745 on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 01:32:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm bankrupt, but don't qualify for bankruptcy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was a college educated, middle-class, working person until I got sick in 1999.  Over the last 12 years, medical bills and unemployment have left me in poverty.  I own my mobile home and my truck, and in Missouri, that is too much equity for me to file chapter 7 bankruptcy.  I'm unemployed so I don't qualify for a repayment plan bankruptcy.  My credit sucks due to unpaid medical bills.  No one wants to hire me due to bad credit and my long term unemployment.  Medical bills have been my downfall and continue to be as I have ongoing medical problems.  I'm 57 and it is a struggle now to just get the medication I need on an ongoing basis.  I've worked for over 35 years and I've lost my American Dream mainly due to medical problems.

    •  I'm sorry to hear all that. I'm sorta in the same (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      larryrant, ladypockt

      position. I'm 57 too.  I truly believe our system is created to take anything you might have accumulated in your life away before you get out of here.

    •  Well, bankruptcy law is what lawyers say it is (0+ / 0-)

      Congress is comprised of lawyers, mostly, and Law is what they make (mostly). Right and wrong have nothing to do with it.

      Not to be too Godwin about it, but there have times and places where killing certain kinds of people on sight has been more than "legal". People got medals for it.

      And of course, all sorts of war are "legal".


      Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
      I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

      by Leo in NJ on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 08:04:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So sorry (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie

      for your situation.  I have a friend in your position - she survived a cancer that was supposed to kill her, but her school used her illness to let her go and hire someone with less experience for $15,000 less a year.  This used to be a great place to work, but now everyone is afraid to speak up for fear of their own jobs.  She is suing, but they have a high priced law firm to go after her.

      She has to stay on disability to have any income at all - all she wants to do is get back in the classroom, but, of course, teaching is not a growth profession these days.

    •  Owning a trailer and truck is too much? (0+ / 0-)

      OMG, that's just criminal!

  •  Check: most of the above....nt (0+ / 0-)

    ..squinting all the while in the glare of a culture that radiates ultraviolet consumerism and infrared celebrity...Russell Brand

    by KenBee on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 12:08:19 PM PST

  •  Medical bills are "job creators"... (0+ / 0-)

    Just like Romney.

  •  Santorum is not the answer to solve these problems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    hopefully soon Google can return to the old ranking if you google Santorum. I am so so so disappointed to see this. Did Santorum again pay a million dollar in bribes to change this?

    •  He probably hired a company (0+ / 0-)

      That does that sort of thing. They go into many forums and other places where people can comment, and link to the site they want the words to go to.

      They also create dummy websites to link to it also.

  •  Let us not forget that we also have a president (6+ / 0-)

    campaigned on a public option then after election didn't even allow the idea at at the table.

    "I'm not scared of anyone or anything, Angie. Isn't that the way life should be?" Jack Hawksmoor

    by skyounkin on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:38:17 PM PST

  •  I think that study was released in 2009, no? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    el jefe42

    By Washington Post editors  |  June 4, 2009; 5:22 PM ET

  •  I for one can not wait (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    until those growing hordes that have suffered extract what is due them from those shrinking few that have profited at ever-greater levels.

    There is a great reckoning coming in this society, sooner or later. One almost hopes for later so that the reckoning may be that much bigger, that much more cleansing, cathartic, and just.

    -9.63, 0.00
    I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

    by nobody at all on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:42:30 PM PST

  •  These facts were known before the ACA was drafted (9+ / 0-)

    Too bad. Facts aren't lobbyists. Both parties conspired to churn out an expensive, complex and corporate friendly dilution.

    We still have overpriced prescription drugs, no Public Option and definitely no Single Payer. If Republicans take the House AND Senate in 2012, even this plan will go away. We can just roll over and die on our own.

  •  Compassionate Conservatism in action. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:54:29 PM PST

  •  Republished in Single Payer California (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, DSPS owl, splashy, Mr MadAsHell

    Given that there are over 1.1 million Chapter 7 bankruptcies per year this represents 682,000 tragedies.

    It has to stop.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:55:19 PM PST

  •  I know this is diary pimping (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    notdarkyet, splashy

    but I wrote a diary regarding the testimony of the mother of a patient who died a few years ago in Congress back in 2009.  Elizabeth Edwards was in attendance at the time, and introduced Kerry when she testified...

    It's about time I changed my signature.

    by Khun David on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:56:38 PM PST

  •  Nobody should be gilding their yachts (6+ / 0-)

    by blackmailing sick people.

    Medical care is a human right, not a profit center.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:56:42 PM PST

  •  This story is from 2009 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    el jefe42

    so not newly published.  Has there been an update since then that I'm not seeing here?  Interesting information, but not just out on Thursday.

    "We have to remain constantly vigilant to prevent raids by those who would selfishly exploit our common heritage for their private gain." Harry Truman

    by Helena Handbag on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 08:04:58 PM PST

    •  I didn't see it in 2009 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and am 'glad' for this diary.  It is shocking.  Perhaps it is less shocking to people living in the USA.  I'm so lucky to live with "socialized" medicine here in northern Europe.

      It is so sad, tragic really, that people have to pay medical expenses for years after the death of a family member.  Universal, single-payer health insurance is the only civilized answer.

      The Republicans are defunding, not defending, America.

      by DSPS owl on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 10:06:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This may be a bit tangential ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl, slouchsock, Hirodog, splashy

    ... but i'd love to know how many households keep what might be considered "too much" liquid savings just in case something happens to them medically, effectively preventing that money from working to its best advantage for them, or from being re-invested in some way into the general economy.  I'm not very savvy about financial matters (or about having huge pockets of money sitting around), so the question itself may seem very underdeveloped.

    But let's say, hypothetically, a houselhold has amassed 10k that's sitting in a savings account.  Do they dare touch it to pay off additional principal on their mortgages?  To start a business?  To take a trip or donate it to a charity?  Or do they just let it sit there knowing full well that a single medical problem could easily wipe their saving out in a blink - even if they're insured ...

    I don't know.  It just seems like most people's actions (at least most people who aren't young and therefore indestructible) are governed by the constraints and fear of our for profit medical system.

    •  reply: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As a 59 yr old who doesn't even have that much, 10K doesn't seem like a lot in a savings account-if my hubs lost his job it would be gone in 5-6 months. If he couldn't work, he'd get some disability but that would cut our income 40% and we would have a tough time keeping our modest 750 sq ft. house, even without the cost of insurance or medical care. Rent would cost more than our mortgage.

      Yes, we're governed by many fears, but I've been in the position when I was young of spending down to my last $17 while traveling. It worked out fine and I could take those risks then-I had good health, education, family as a fall-back. There's usually some kind of work that a 21 year old white kid can find on short notice--not so much at 59.

      We go out of town for a two day trip, we take some art classes, we're saving to make few maintenance purchases for our house. We stopped using credit cards about 1.5 years ago, so we're making a little progress.

  •  Some of the greatest medical needs not yet covered (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slouchsock, splashy

    are vision and dental care for low-income folks and folks over 65 on Medicare.

  •  The US is suffering from an epidemic..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    .....of medical bankruptcy.

    It's a punishing irony.

    (Sorry....sometimes I can't resist)


    While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

    by xynz on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 10:22:14 PM PST

  •  As an unememployed Mass resident (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was eligible for Commonwealth Care (or Romney Care or whatever you'd like to call it).

    Got kidney stone out of the blue one morning and ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days for monitoring and UTI treatment. When I got out, I asked about the bill and was told "Don't worry about it".

    After a few calls I found out that my bill had been $24,000, but Commcare covered all but $500 because the urologist was not part of the network. I even got that knocked in half when I explained how desperate things were for me economically.

    I still don't have a straight answer as to whether this is a good plan or a bad plan. It certainly could be better, but I know I never would have gotten out from under that debt if the state insurance didn't cover it.

    I don't get it. We've eliminated as many jobs as possible, and cut pay and benefits for everyone else, but the economy still keeps getting worse!

    by Darth Cheney on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 11:41:57 PM PST

    •  Here's hoping the new law (0+ / 0-)

      Will work in the same way in the rest of the country.

      We'll find out when 2014 comes in, assuming the law is still happening because the money addicted Republicans weren't successful in destroying it.

  •  Study is from 2009 (0+ / 0-)

    This paper was not released Thursday. Its points are good, certainly better than the attempts to refute it, although I do not think their definition of medical bankruptcy is "conservative". However, even if you cut their number in half, that still says a lot.

    The priceless part is how the lead anti-Obamacare plaintiff filed for bankruptcy, saddling you and me with the medical bills she didn't insure against.

  •  I am ashamed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hirodog, splashy

    To live in a country that cares more about making billionaires richer than it cares about making health care an  affordable right for every citizen from birth.  The revolution is building . . .

    Can't never did nothin'; Can Do did!

    by susanWAstate on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 02:07:02 AM PST

  •  I just filed bankruptcy for medical reasons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I had my 341 hearing this past week.  My bankruptcy included over 80k in medical expenses.  I am a single father of one whose son was sick for three years.   I am well educated,  I make 50k a year, work for my state and have excellent coverage.  I tried everything to get caught up.  Eventually my credit counselor told me the best thing I could do is file for bankruptcy.  Everything about the experience is humiliating.  I am almost 40 and I am having to start life over from scratch.   If I keep my nose clean for the next 3 years my case will be discharged but I feel like I will be repaying this debt through shame the rest of my life.  

    •  I had to declare bankruptcy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      splashy, joe wobblie

      at 40 because of a divorce.  My ex had filed and if I didn't I was going to be stuck with owing the entire balance due on the foreclosed house.  (A lovely irony was that my name wasn't on the deed - I was only 'et ux")

      I have managed to mostly recover (2008 didn't help) and even bought a house before the market went crazy.  Hang in there - there is hope, and I hope everything is good for you and your family.  

    •  No reason to feel shame (0+ / 0-)

      The way things are set up, it's about the wealthy getting everything you own because they are money addicted. You have been stolen from, and are a victim of their greed.

      So, they managed to catch you in their trap, which was probably laid before you were born, or started working. There is no way you could have avoided it, because it's set up to take as much as possible from the working people, to keep them down and out as much as possible.

      They have people working all the time on devising more ways to legally steal from others, especially the working people, the 99%. How on earth could anyone avoid it?

      That's why we need single payer health care, to stop that extraction they have been doing for decades now.

  •  Single Payer is coming (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RadGal70, splashy

    to America via Vermont

    Vermont is using affordable care act money to build their single payer system.

  •  Wealth extraction (0+ / 0-)

    The wealthy know that eventually everyone gets sick. They count on it happening before you get Medicare (which they are trying to destroy so they can get you after you turn 65) so you have to put all your assets into medical bills. The insurance is extraction while you work, the medical bills are extraction when you or a  family member gets sick.

    Either way, they get everything you worked for, and you sink into poverty where they can revile you for not doing better.

    It's a scam, a con, and the right wingers have been running it for decades now, making it more and more effective every year we don't have universal single payer health care.

  •  Universal Health Care (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Val, james321

    This is a repeat of a recently posted comment in which I show how different the situation can be with the benefit of universal healh care.  US citizens should note :

    Quebec health coverage

    Two years ago, since I did not have a regular GP, I went to a walk-in clinic with a pain in the lower abdomen that got me worried about possible acute appendicitis (classic McBurney’s point pain). The doctor wrote a short prescription and instructed me to present it at the ER of the hospital of my choice,

    A 5 minute cab ride later, I was in the ER waiting room of the Montreal Hotel-Dieu hospital where I waited for all of 15 minutes for triage and another 15 minutes or so after triage at which point the system took me in.

    Within one hour, I had had an abdominal Xray and a thoracic scan, followed by a diagnosis of a large abdominal abscess located on the psoas muscle from the groin area to the top of the kidney.

    Next day, after a precision scan to determine the insertion angles, a drain was installed by percutaneous insertion (through the skin – no cutting).

    Then, because of the unusual content of the abscess, there began a thorough investigation by the entire microbiology department of the University hospital:

    It involved the following procedures:

    Over many weeks, I received seven or more intravenous antibiotics and anti fungal medications, several of which are unavailable in the US.      
    One full body MRI;
    One colonoscopy;
    Two ultrasound scans;
    Two nuclear two phase exams;
    Two or three EKGs
    Five more follow-up scans;
    A second drain insertion guided this time by ultrasound scanner;
    Because of its size, the abscess took 2 ½ months to fully drain;
    At least 70 blood tests;
    Installation of a PIC IV line (peripherally inserted central catheter)

    I was seen and examined by doctors and residents of the following departments:
    Microbiology (5 doctors, 3 residents);
    Internal Medicine (2 Doctors, 1 resident);

    I remained in the hospital for 2 ½ months in a spacious private room for which my private insurer paid approximately 6 000$.

    Upon my release from the hospital, I was admitted to a rehab centre for physical rehab and recovery therapy; 15 days in a private room, at no charge to me or my insurer.

    Total cost out of pocket for those three months in hospital: 0.00$ except for rental of a TV set.

    Because I was diagnosed with diabetes, I currently take 2 glucose control tablets per day and one new drug per day (cost = $3.00 per pill).  Since Quebec govt insurance covers drugs, I actually pay a fraction of the actual costs.

    My annual health coverage costs:

    Govt health coverage:    $  310
    Govt drugs coverage:    $  563
    Employer retiree  plan:    $  611       the last two amounts are         included in calculation of federal  and provincial income tax credits;   
    Employer  contribution:    $1,900     added to taxable income for     provincial income tax only; amount     is included in calculation of         provincial income tax credit;

    Monthly co-pay on drugs:
    $16+ 32%    , monthly max $80.25
     (my 2011 actual drug cost: $255) included in calculations of federal and provincial income tax credits                         
    My annual total health cost was under $1,750 in a year where my actual costs would have been anybody’s guess in the US whether insured or not………QED... (LOL)                   

  •  I do not own a home or car (0+ / 0-)

    Practically all of the debt on my credit report is medical. I wasn't in the hospital at all in 2011, but was in 5 times in 2010. I get $14,000 SSDI and Medicare, I'm not eligible for Medicaid in Florida except for share-of-cost. Also not eligible for food stamps. Not sure I'm eligible for legal aid but probably am not. Can't afford to buy a lawyer. Pay almost half my income in rent on a 12 x 20 foot apartment. Have never established credit, am 50 and probably never will. Sometimes I wish I had died on the table during my first open heart, because poverty is a bitch. And help in Florida is hard to get. I fought four different efforts to get SSDI in a ten year period following the onset of my disability, which I had from birth but didn't know it till it tried to kill me at 35. It killed my maternal grandfather at 39.

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