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I went to the hottest place on earth, Lake Havasu City, Arizona last month for a weekend to see my son and daughter-in-law. I developed some heavy-duty respiratory symptoms while there. When we got back my wife insisted I either go see my doctor or go to the emergency room. I got in the next day to see my doctor. He sent me for X-rays. Got the X-rays the next day and that same afternoon my doctor called me back and said I had a pleural effusion - fluid had collected in my pleural space, the area between my lungs and my ribs. He wanted me to go see a pulmonologist about my fluid problem and a cardiologist in case it was related to a heart problem. He also told me to go straight to the emergency room if my symptoms worsened. He had also had me tested for Valley Fever, but that test had come back negative. All this took two-and-a-half days from the time I called my doctor until I had the results.

Naturally the symptoms got worse (power of suggestion?). So two days later, I went to the emergency room about 9 am. Got in immediately when I gave my age as 62 and said the words "chest pain". No delay whatsoever.

They determined that I probably wasn't having a heart attack, so they called in a pulmonary specialist, who arrived a couple of hours later. They took x-rays, and an MRI and blood work. Eventually they stuck a needle in my back and drew off a quart of stuff that looked like a dark brown ale - it even had a head on it. More x-rays and prescriptions and waiting to be discharged.

By 6 pm I was out of there - a total of about 9 hours. Exhausted, but able to breathe better. I've been slowly improving since. I'm fine. Not looking for sympathy.

Everything about the hospital stay was pretty good. Competent and compassionate personnel kept an eye on me all day. I was seen by (in my observation) a very good doctor and very good specialist in what seemed like a reasonable amount of time. The only unpleasant thing that happened was a nurse having to forcibly draw blood from a very scared and screaming 4 year-old girl in the next bay - twice.

Anyway, a couple of weeks later I got a "Statement of Expenses - NOT A BILL - DO NOT PAY" from the hospital. Total - $12,936.50. For 9 hours in a hospital.

I was a little surprised, but having had a couple of series of x-rays and an MRI and EKG monitoring all day and an outpatient surgical procedure (well, they used a scalpel to make a small incision to insert the needle), I decided I was glad I had insurance. United Healthcare. I'm not going to say good insurance because for the last couple of years they have been denying me tests and procedures that should probably have been covered in my opinion.

So here is the kicker.

How much did I pay? $125 for an emergency room visit.

How much did my insurance pay? $955

The "In-network Discount" was $11,856.50!!!!

The insurance company has assured me I will not have to pay any more to the hospital.

Our health insurance "system" is absolutely insane. My health insurance costs around $7000 per year. Yet they get the hospital to write off more than 90% of a bill?

Should I be pissed off that the hospital charged a huge amount to treat me? Should I be pissed off that the insurance company paid next to nothing?

Or should I just curl up into a little ball and say "Thank you tiny little baby Jesus, that I am fortunate enough to be able to afford any health insurance at all"?

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