Monday, April 12, 2010

The Wonders of Health Insurance (Healthcare Reform... still)

(original source of image unknown)

Recently my child was ill with bronchitis. I took him to the pediatrician, paid my $25 co-pay and he was diagnosed with bronchitis, put on Zithromax ($132 with our University's group Health Insurance because it put us over his 'fund' for the year), a prescription cough suppressant ($20), and an albuterol inhaler ($55). We waited four days and since we were leaving for cold and wet Seattle and he was still coughing up a storm, our pediatrician sent us to the ER for a chest x-ray. Just to be on the safe side. There, after an only four hour wait, he had a chest x-ray, was re-diagnosed with bronchitis and was discharged with two additional prescriptions, a steroid inhaler (Flovent, $68) and oral prednisone (generic tables, $20).

Well, I just got my bill. Our co-pay for the ER visit was $100. The bill I have received AFTER OUR INSURANCE PAID is for a whopping $685. Yes, you got that right. That $685 was after the insurance had paid their portion of the 'adjustments'. We owe $685 for a chest x-ray, the same diagnosis and two additional prescriptions received. I haven't even seen the radiologist's bill yet.

We have good healthcare coverage. I guess. In theory. But I have to say, I'm really questioning what we pay for with bills like these.

The kicker? The $55 generic albuterol inhaler (you know, the rescue inhaler that's supposed to keep you breathing?) quit working after about three days. I've asked the pharmacist about that and he says I'll have to send it back to the manufacturer to see if they'll replace it. But after hearing my story he advised me not to tell them I'd taken it on an airplane because of the potential pressure effects on the valve.

Words fail me.


  1. OK, let me add the potential costs up for Australia where we have "socialised" medicine:

    Iniital Dr's visit $0.00
    Zithromax ~$22.00 (subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme - hated by the US Pharmaceutical companies, see:
    Prescription cough suppressant, ~$22.00 (again PBS subsidised)
    X-ray at public hospital $0.00
    4 x more additional prescriptions ~$88.00 (PBS subsidised)

    Total in your case $132.00

    Total if a pensioner $24.00

    That's all if you have no health insurance at all, so no monthly expense is needed to keep the price down to that compared with the health insurance subidised alternative you dealt with.

    Pensioners her get their prescription medications subsidised so they pay only $4.00 per prescription and there is a cap per annum, beyond which they're provided free.

    I still can't figure out what's wrong with having health subsidised by the public system. It's certainly a lot cheaper both for the people involved and the government - and as an incidental, children and the poor can always afford to be treated.

  2. All I can say is I want to move to Australia. And I'm with you, Sally, I don't get what is wrong with public healthcare either. To me it is a moral and humanitarian issue.