So now the bills are starting to pour in. It is ironic that the disease that is killing you kills your finances (and your family's finances) first.
Almost as frustrating is that the bills come in with no explanation of what each itemized amount is for... you get a date of service, but no explanation of what the service was.
So for instance, I went to see my oncologist on a particular date: we got his opinion on what should be done next (I should take truly horrific toxic drugs and see which dies first, the cancer or me - and no, he doesn't ever suggest alternatives, and yes [insert face like smelling rotten eggs here] I could get a second opinion but the next doctor will say the same thing**) and he had his lab draw blood for some tests for vitamin and mineral levels, etc. That's it.
Now I get a bill for that date of service and there's about 8 different amounts billed but no explanation of what they are for - and the billed amounts total to thousands of dollars. Thousands.
A little less than $400 was for the doctor's time with us. Wouldn't YOU like to make around $1,000 an hour for repeating the same thing over and over? Because it was pretty clear that that is what this guy does - he just says, "This is what I always prescribe for people in your situation," and that is that.
Well, okay, specialists make a lot of money - whether they are good at their job or not. They've got medical school to pay for, and specialist office drones they have to hire to push papers around to the 800 individual health insurance companies (which all have different forms and processes and negotiated discounts), and insurance premiums to pay in order to avoid being sued for treating people like they don't matter. So cough it up and stop complaining, or we'll stop perforating and irradiating and dissecting you.
But that was pretty much the smallest part of that bill, a bill which otherwise did not identify anything about the charges except that they were charging outrageous sums for... whatever it is they feel like charging for. Air pumped into the room, maybe? The $900 cotton ball they taped to my arm after taking my blood? Liquor distilled from the stamens of rare flowers grown in pristine mountain snow, hand-harvested by cloistered monks in Tibet and transported by Yeti so that the doctor can calm his nerves after having to actually talk to a patient?
Now, am I supposed to just assume that blood tests for my creatinine and glucose and hemoglobin levels are going to cost as much as $1,500 each, and just write out the check for my portion? Or is this an exercise (for which I will be billed) designed to make sure I keep my mind distracted from my unpleasant prognosis by forcing me to spend all the hours between doctors appointments in sitting with the phone glued to my ear***, listening to a) 'inoffensive' pop music as interpreted by Guy Tweedy And His Euphonium Orchestra, or b) endlessly repeated canned recordings assuring me that my insurance company values me, but they are too busy to talk to me right now, so please hold indefinitely, or c) the customer service rep, who really has no way of knowing exactly what most of this is for, she has no idea why I didn't get an itemized bill (for these or any other services I've been billed for) but she can put in an order on her computer for an itemized list to be sent to me as soon as the computers are back up, although she isn't sure when that might be.
I've got 38 bills listed by my insurance company so far, for things done in December and part of January alone, none of them itemized in either the bills from the providers or the website accounting of the insurance company's billing records (they have date of service and location, sometimes the name of a clinician, and amounts billed, but that's it). If I want to find out what the service actually was, I have to call and wait on hold for the customer service rep of each individual business office of each individual doctor or clinic or lab or hospital or technician or pharmacy... who may or may not be able to tell me what the bill was for. At one point I got a nearly $6,000 bill that both insurance company and clinic insisted was a mystery beyond their ability to explain, but they were sure that eventually it would wend its way through the system and they'd be able to tell me what it was for eventually.
I am also told that there is over $6,000 (different $6,000 from the above) still owing for bills that I didn't actually receive - so obviously I don't know what services those are for, either, and they can't tell me because I don't know the account number(s), since I never got the (unitemized) bill. There will be more bills coming in for December and January over the next few months. They won't be itemized, either. I'll have to call in on those. By then I'll be getting unitemized bills for services received in February and March. Oh, and also there are a couple unitemized bills for services done back in May and July of last year, services for which I already paid but there was an adjustment 'that (they) had to do by hand', so now I owe more on those. Thanks for checking in.
Yes, we have The Best Health Care System In The World. We know this because the politicians have been passionately and sincerely asserting this in their speeches every election cycle for at least the past five decades. Pay no attention to Big Pharma and the insurance companies behind the curtain...
I may not need to worry about the cancer. It's the raised blood pressure that's likely to get me. Or fatal ennui brought on by too many hours of Guy Tweedy And His Euphonium Orchestra.
** No, the next doctor did NOT say the same thing. The next doctor treated me like a real person with feelings and a life, which was refreshing. Of course, I haven't gotten the bills for that yet, so I don't know if that costs more.
*** This is a shortened version for dramatic effect. My mom is taking over most of the work involved with the billing issues, so soon she will be the one with the Tweedy version of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" endlessly repeating in her head. THAT is true love, the sort only a mother can know...