Look carefully at those two numbers. The first is the sum of three bills I received for my husband’s day-after-Christmas visit to the emergency room for unusual dizziness. A CT and EKG ruled out a stroke or heart attack. Diagnosis? Vertigo.
(Note: both figures will likely be much higher once all the bills come in, but I needed a blog post so I’m going with what I’ve got now).
Now look at the second figure. That’s what I have to pay after the discounts my insurance company has negotiated with the hospital and radiologists. Note: there are no payments from the insurance company in there because we had not yet met our deductible. These are just the discounts.
Which points out a really critical issue when it comes to those who have health insurance and those who don’t. Merely by having health insurance–even before my insurance company spends a single cent on my medical care–I benefit. I benefit from the administrators who go to the hospitals and doctors and negotiate deep discounts in exchange for funneling more volume (i.e., patients) to their practices (and yes, I know that the doctors and hospitals on the receiving end aren’t thrilled about it, but that’s a topic for another blog post).
Someone without health insurance, however, likely because they can’t afford it, has no such benefit and so winds up paying that first figure–if they can afford it.
(Note to those who are counting: that would be about 35 million American citizens).
A few months ago Congress was close to providing insurance to those people, enabling them to enjoy the same discounts my family does. Today, they’re still stuck on the outside looking in. How is this good politics or good policy?
Because what all this talk about healthcare reform really comes down to in the end is the ability to go to the emergency room on the day after Christmas when you’re petrified that your husband may have a stroke, receive quality care, and be able to pay for the care you received.
It’s really not that complicated.