health insurance reform rant

by tinglyfeeling on September 8, 2009

doing nothing is not an optionCan we get some health insurance reform up in here? Seriously. I just received the bill for my spinal and brain MRIs: $807.75. And that’s after my Aetna insurance plan (supposedly) paid 80%.

And that’s not all. Last week, I received a bill for $292.85 for, I think, my neurologist visit and for my neurologist and the lab to just process the MRI results. I also had some blood drawn, at their request, to see if my Avonex (which is not covered by my Aetna plan, BTW) was damaging my liver (nope).

A week later, I met with a general practitioner for just a consultation to establish care and had more blood drawn to check my vitamin D and cholesterol levels (both okay). That visit cost $158 and is still pending with my insurance. Another amount of $221 for … I’m not sure? Maybe the two blood draws? … is also pending with Aetna. So if they don’t pay for those preventative procedures, I’ll get billed for those amounts, too. FU, Aetna (and my employer, who chose the plan, can suck it, too.)

I suppose none of these visits were absolutely life-and-death necessary. I didn’t have to see my neurologist or get those MRIs. They just let me know if my Multiple Sclerosis is getting worse or not. No big deal, I guess. At least, not if you’re an insurance company looking at the bottom line. But then if I’d been in some horrific accident and had lost an arm, they’d just pay 80% of those bills, too. Pah.

I can’t afford to just pay out $1,000 (or $1,400, if those other amounts get billed to me), so I’m going to have to call my hospital and get on a payment plan that will take months to pay off. This makes going to the neurologist once a year very expensive–and I have a job that provides health insurance! So I guess I should consider myself lucky. What do people who can’t work because of their MS, or another condition that keeps them from having employer-provided health insurance, do?

I don’t know where y’all fall on the two sides of the health insurance reform debate, but I am seriously scared of what will happen if President Obama and the supporters of reform can’t make it happen. If I lose my job for some reason and have to apply for individual plan, I will be turned down because of the pre-existing conditions clause. And I will be screwed–financially and otherwise. I don’t know how people do it.

And for the wahoos out there screaming “death panels!” and “don’t brainwash our children, Prezdint Obama!”: fuck you, too. Obama isn’t trying to take away your health care. He’s trying (unless he caves to wahoo pressure) to give us another option. The Public Option is not a mandate. It’s a way for people left out in the cold by greedy insurance companies to still get necessary health care.

I know I’m oversimplifying here. It’s a complicated issue and I don’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs. But what seems very clear to me is that we need a change and that the current system isn’t working. And no, I don’t just think this because I just got slapped with a ginormous bill. I thought this when I went to a health insurance reform rally in downtown Seattle last week, too.

I thought we needed reform before I saw this very simple video, too, which is a must-watch (and share!) for anyone trying to begin to grasp the many variables in this debate.

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  • Carla

    I hear what you're saying. My bills are piling up too since I was diagnosed in January. I went to disability in March due to a relapse not going away and that kept getting extended, so I lost my job and health insurance. COBRA is available but expensive, but I'm moving out of state later this week so I wont be covered anymore either way. Thankfully Oregon has a program for people like me who cant get private insurance normally.

    Other than , I dont know what I'm going to do.

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  • tinglyfeeling

    Yeah, I realize that among people with MS, I should count myself lucky that I'm still able to go to work and have employer-provided health insurance. It still isn't enough, though. Insurance companies exist to protect hospitals' interests, not patients', IMO.

    What's this Oregon health care program about?

  • Carla

    Oregon Medical Insurance Pool for people who are uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions (MS is one of them), COBRA running out or a few other reasons. I will apply the second I get there!

  • Carla

    I was also going to say that I wouldn't need to apply if I didn't lose my health insurance the second I step out of California.

  • tinglyfeeling

    Losing your health insurance because you move is another stupid thing about the current system. What a hassle. You move to a new state and have to re-apply under different rules. That totally sucks, and especially when you're dealing with a chronic illness.

    I'm glad that Oregon has that program for you. Maybe if health care reform doesn't pass, we can all move there and start a big MS commune. ;-)

  • Carla

    I didn't realize that until I called my insurance company to change my address before I arrive! It almost turned my plans upside down.

  • tinglyfeeling

    Oy. As if moving wasn't irritating enough already. Good luck with the transition–I'll watch your blog and tweets for news.

  • Carla

    Cool, thanks! :)

  • SusieQue17

    I have Aetna, too, and just got a brain MRI without contrast and was charged $2700. and after Aetna paid & disallowed, I am now billed with $2200. for the ONE brain MRI. Something is wrong with this picture (pun intended); I'll be contesting and fighting this one…and that's only one! I'm in the Houston area–does that have something to do with charges? Can't change insurance coverage to a better company–pre-existing, etc.

  • SusieQue17

    BTW, does anyone know where the daily life & symptoms, dealing with, hints, etc. DISCUSSION tweets are? I need some info, help re: dealing, also RX discussion. Thanks. Blessings to all.

  • tinglyfeeling

    Yikes! That is really expensive for one MRI w/o contrast. Definitely ask what's up.

    My Aetna plan through my employer covers 80% of costs, but 80% of a lot is still a lot. I think that insurance charges vary state to state, but also employer to employer. My doctor told me she has other patients on Aetna and they're covered 100%–and their drugs are covered, too. My plan still doesn't offer prescription coverage for Avonex (although they're adding Rebif for 2010–whoo. whatevs.), but of course, I can't switch to a different insurance carrier.

    Anyway, I had to get on a payment plan with a bank that works with my hospital because I can't pay off my bills in 3 months–that would be more than $300/month. Insane. So now I'll be paying an outside bank that charges 15% interest on the full amount instead. Excellent.

    Best of luck to you in your fight against your insurance company. I hope they're able to work with you to get your bills down to a more reasonable amount.

    And thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

  • tinglyfeeling

    To find MS topics on Twitter, search for the hashtags #MSMonday, #MultScler, #multiplesclerosis, #MSucks. Sometimes discussion comes out of those tweets, but I haven't found a group of tweeps who *just* talk about their MS. I'd like to, though. That's why I started @tinglyfeeling and this blog. Follow me if you haven't already.

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