This Just In: $19,386.08

I spent 22-hours in the hospital last weekend

Saturday evening while on our family’s weekly FaceTime call, I moved wrong and fell over on the couch. There was shooting pain across my entire low back and I could not put any weight on my legs. It was bad.

You see people on TV shows complaining about getting old when they inexplicably hurt themselves simply by living. Well, I guess I’ve reached that age.

In January, my wife and I were in our car, stopped at a red light. Another car refused to stop at the light, rear-ended us, and took off. The lady was never caught. The damage to the car was fixed, but Carla and I have been receiving chiropractic treatment since. Turns out, the extent of my injuries were greater than anticipated.

When I moved wrong on Saturday night, a bulge and annular tear in my L5-S1 disc pressed into the nerves causing the pain and immobility. I, of course, learned all this after taking an ambulance ride to the hospital, an incredible amount of drugs, and a 4:00 am MRI.

When you’re a little kid, the idea of riding in an ambulance is exciting. It’s a big truck that makes loud noises and is full of possibilities. The reality, when you’re strapped to a very uncomfortable table and every bump and jolt sends shards of hot pain through your back, is much less appealing.

After the early morning MRI, I spent another 12-hours in the hospital under “observation” while the swelling in my back went down and I regained the ability to walk without assistance.

The good news is, relatively speaking, I’m fine. Bulging discs and annular tears don’t heal, per se, but they are treatable. The prescribed drugs have kept the inflammation and pain down and I’ve increased my movement each day this week.

The really good news is my new company’s health insurance kicked in 36-hours before I had to call 911. Had this happened just a day sooner, I would have been in serious trouble.

I don’t yet have the itemized bill, but the initial insurance claim from the hospital is $19,386.08. This may or may not include the ambulance since that was the City of Orlando Fire Department and not the hospital itself. Regardless, the bill is insane.

Because insurance providers negotiate lower rates, the “member rate” is only 62% of the total bill, or $7,510.17. Of that, I’ll pay about 40% and meet my out of pocket max for the year. Without insurance, I would have been responsible to pay the entire $19,386.08 hospital bill.

I say all this not to brag about the privilege of having health insurance ( because I almost didn’t), but to point out how broken our healthcare system is.

Without insurance, I would have received the exact same treatment and care, yet I would have been billed roughly 125% higher than people with healthcare coverage. And that’s assuming my insurance provider receives the same “member discount” as other insurers. It’s entirely possible some insurance companies will pay even less.

In a world where a deadly pandemic is pushing hospitals to the brink of capacity, the cost of care is out of control. We need a system where people don’t leave the hospital healed only to walk right into bankruptcy.

I don’t know what the solution is, other than letting our representatives know what we have simply does not work. We can and must do better. Otherwise, when we finally make it to the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic, we will see medical debt and bankruptcies at an unprecedented rate in this county.

If you’re not registered to vote (or you’re not sure), take 5-minutes and make it happen.

Oh, and if I can wear a paper hospital mask for 22-hours ( including while sleeping) then you can wear one in the grocery store.

Stay safe and wash your hands.

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