The Cry of More and More People; “I Can’t Afford to Get Sick”

For the past few years, I have had to stop everything and go get various teeth worked on.  I have had countless fillings, numerous root canals and 9 extractions.  I did not ask for teeth problems, I inherited them.  My mom had all her teeth pulled when she was 40 and her mom and sisters all had the same condition.  Back in her day they would just pull all the teeth and put a set of dentures in and be done with it.

Current dental guidelines are to do everything possible to “save the tooth”.  What starts with fairly inexpensive fillings moves up to very expensive crowns and root canals.  If teeth are extracted, options such as bridges and implants are nice looking but prohibitively expensive.  For people with normal teeth I suppose this is a good way of dealing with problems that arise.  For people such as myself, my mouth has become a bottomless money pit.

Today, after spending well over $1,000 at various times to “save” one of my teeth, it had to be extracted.  What do I have to show for my investment?  A hole in my mouth and prospects of many more thousands of dollars to get a bridge.  In my lifetime, including all the times my parents dragged me to the dentist to fill every tooth with mercury fillings when I was a child, I would imagine that there has been close to $50,000 of dental work done inside my mouth over the past 50 years

In 1998 I was out of state helping get my dad get situated in a nursing home after a stroke.  I had a heart attack and ended up having emergency by-pass surgery.  The hospital I was taken to was not part of my insurance “preferred network” so they were able to bill the insurance the full amount and GET PAID the full amount billed.  A week in the hospital and all surgical costs etc. ended up costing the insurance company $73,000.  An “in network” hospital would have been about $30,000.

Due to complications from that surgery along with other physical issues, the total amount paid the past ten years to keep me “healthy” has to be over $250,000.  So, between my mouth, heart and other members of my body; it has cost more than $300,000 to keep me alive and smiling.  I can guarantee you I do not smile when I think that my part of this bill is somewhere around $50,000.

During the latter half of 1997 I encountered chest pains and had to endure 7 heart caths  as one artery  kept collapsing around stents placed in it and new stents were put in.  By December of 1997 I had six stents in the right coronary artery alone.  My heart attack and by-pass was three months later after all six stents failed.  Just as in the case of my teeth, all the pain and expense of the multiple stent placements ended up being wasted.

Despite having a decent health insurance plan, the relentless co-pays and deductibles over the years have taken their toll.  Just since January 1st of this year, I have had to see specialists 10 times for various situations.  At $35 per visit, that is $350 just in co-pays.  I have also had to see my “primary care” doctor 6 times at $25 per visit.  I have had to pay $500 in co-pays in three months.  Of course doctors have to schedule tests and procedures to find out what is wrong.  With a $500 deductable and insurance only paying 70% of such tests; the amount spent has become a staggering figure totally out of my wife and my ability to pay. 

I also have had to go to Emergency Rooms twice and there is an automatic $100 co-pay for each visit.  God forbid I ever have to spend a night in the hospital, for there is a $500 per day co-pay.  And this is all with a good insurance policy.  The only way we have survived is through my wife’s medical reimbursement plan at work.  Unfortunately it only pays up to $2,000 annually.

Being sick of course means having drugs.  Even using our mail order plan, the cost is staggering.  Since half the drugs prescribed are not liked by the insurance company, the co-pays on many drugs are $80 for a three month supply or $40 for a one month supply at the local pharmacy.  When adding into the mix the cost of gasoline to run all over creation to various doctors and tests; the end result is financial misery and near disaster.

With all the talk about the mortgage crisis and price of gasoline; people have forgotten where their money really is being thrown away.  Even with insurance, the amount of money it takes to try and get better when sick or injured is mind boggling.  I personally know many people who literally “cannot afford to get sick” as they say.  Most of these people ARE sick and refuse to go to the doctor because of expense.  I think we all know what happens to sick people who do not get medical attention—they just get sicker.

If not already, the average family in this country will soon be caught in the horrible predicament of deciding between food and medicine, paying the mortgage vs. paying the health insurance premium, not seeking medical attention vs. filling the gas tank up with gas and other gut wrenching choices.  Considering people must eat, have a home to live in and be able to drive; the handwriting is on the wall as to what is coming.

There is a crisis looming on the horizon and it is NOT just regarding those with no health insurance.  The crisis is over choices that people are being forced into due to the economic situation in general.  Medical needs are being neglected out of lack of funds to pay the staggering out of pocket costs associated with even the good insurance policies.  Before long, few of us will be able to afford to get sick, have a toothache or slip and fall on the ice.  That is indeed a scary thought.


2 Responses to “The Cry of More and More People; “I Can’t Afford to Get Sick””

  1. November 14, 2008 at 12:19 am

    This story is not an uncommon one…at all. I needed a Heart bypass as well and was noninsured. I did some research and found a website (www.amocare.com) that is a non-profit that helps people that can’t afford the cost of surgery. My heart Bypass would have cost me around $50,000 but AMO help me and I only ended up paying around $12,000 at a hospital located in the mid-west. If any one needs help with the cost of surgery go to the amocare.com for help.

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