It’s the total medical expenses of a 5-hour emergency room stay my family recently experienced.
When I was single, I rarely visited doctors. I had no idea how much it costs to see a doctor.
Now, I’m married with two little ones, I pay much closer attention to medical bills. ๐
Recently, we had to call 911 to take my son to the emergency room because he was extremely sluggish. It turned out that he had low blood sugar level because he didn’t eat well the night before and he was in a growth stage that his body simply needed a lot of frequent energy intake.
Here was the sequence of events.
- We called 911. He was taken to the nearest hospital’s ER room.
- The ER physician gave him several tests, and determined that he had low blood sugar level.
- He was given IV. Within minutes, he was fully recovered.
- The ER physician sent us to another ER room in Children’s hospital because she wanted to make sure there wasn’t any other problems.
- We stayed in the first hospital’s ER room for three hours. We stayed at the Children’s hospital’s ER room for 2 hours, and were then discharged.
Two ER rooms, two attending physicians, one brain CT scan ($1000), one 15-mile ambulance ride from the first hospital to Children’s hospital, 2 hours of IV — the total medical expenses is a little bit over $20,000.
My PPO medical insurance covered 90% of the expenses. I still ended up paying $2,000.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Because I want to provide you specific data points about this country’s health care cost.
If I’m unemployed without health insurance, I will need come up with $20,000 to pay for 5-hour of stay at ER.
Some people advocate "consumer driven" health care — the idea is patient should compare shop and push for lower price. But, when my kid was sick, I wanted to provide the most timely and best quality care. "Price" was the last thing I was worrying about.
Health Care is not a product like LCD TV that I can compare shop at multiple stores and buy with the lowest price. Quality is more important than price in a lot of medical situations.
I did call the hospitals to give me detailed explanation of the expense items. But, the problem is that I don’t know if it’s cheap or expensive. They told me that a brain CT scan costs $1,000. But, how did I know if it’s a good price or not? There is little transparency in the medical industry in term of cost.
I’m sick of hearing politicians talking about "consumer driven health care" — the information transparency is not there. Medical Care is inherently not well suited for comparison shopping based on price.
If I’m unemployed and still want insurance, I can continue with CORBA for 18 months (or maybe a little bit longer due to government’s recent policy change.) But, I will need to pay at least $1,200 per month to cover the family.
If I’m self-employed, it’s very hard (or virtually impossible) for me to get insurance like the one I have today at a reasonable cost. Why? Because if you have any "preexisting condition", your premium will shoot up to the sky.
Public option, co-op, private option โ whatever. I think the minimum requirements for health insurance is:
- regardless of any existing condition, anyone should be able to purchase health insurance at a reasonable price
- for anyone who is unemployed, he or she should still be able to access health insurance at a reasonable price
- for anyone who is self-employed, he or she should still be able to access health insurance at a reasonable price
Obvious, it shouldn’t cost $20,000 for a 5-hour stay in emergency room. It’s ridiculous!
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