Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Medical Bills

Last night when I came in from work at the hotel, I always dread seeing what came in the mail.  Bill's medical emergency was last November. Ever since then we've been bombarded (an exaggeration but that's what it feels like) with medical bills for literally thousands of dollars. Seriously, the cost of his emergency (hemorrhaged ulcers) are now approaching $25,000.  

Bill receives his care from the VA (Veterans' Administration.)  We've been lucky because Bill has been very healthy for his eighty-nine years on this earth.  Healthier than I have been for sure. But last year his luck started to run out when I found him almost unconscious at the bottom of the stairs to the basement, vomiting blood. When I saw Bill on the floor, moaning in pain I knew our luck had run out.  Thus we triggered the medical billing nightmare that all of us fear in our old age.

Through a lot of phone calls and research I was able to get Bill into the VA's new Choice program which provides medical coverage for veterans who are too far away from the nearest VA medical facility (we're 90 miles from the Wilmington VA). And when I say a lot of phone calls I mean a LOT.  What a maze one has to go through but I will say one thing, just like the VA medical care once you get in everything works fine.  It's just getting in that is the problem.  A lot of bureaucracy. Part of the problem is the Choice program is run by an outside company.  

Not to bore my readers with all the details, I thought I had all the billing straightened out.  From Bill's emergency room care, to his hospital stay to his visit and procedure with his gastroenterologist. Even the ambulance service, I straightened it all out.  And while I'm doing that I wonder what do veterans who live by themselves handle all these intricacies?  I'm glad I'm here to navigate these treacherous waters for Bill.  I hope someone will do the same for me when I'm 89 years old.

So I make my phone calls this morning about this $3,363.50 bill I received from the hospital yesterday for Bill's endoscopy procedure on July 17th.  Yes, $3,363.50.  That's a chunk out of the Tipton-Kelly household budget.  

First I called the Choice program. I got someone one the first ring. That's one good thing about the Choice program. I don't have to go through a whole menu of options then put on hold only to get someone back on the phone with a foreign accent reading from a script and not actually listening to what I'm saying. I got a real person who listened, and cared and researched.  The phone call took about five minutes, mostly due to there fully researching on her computer rather than taking my name and calling me back later. She told me the bill was paid August 28th for the Medicare approved amount of $719.37. That's another thing that gets me, the hospital bills you for a huge amount and settles for the Medicare approved amount. What do people do who don't have Medicare or insurance?  No wonder we have one of the worst medical systems in the industrialized world. But I digress.

I then called the hospital billing center. They checked and said his account now had a "zero balance."  She said the "check crossed in the mail."  Whatever.  Thank goodness that we dodged this bullet. We may seem rich here what with all my trips (I leave Thursday for Canada) and all my Apple toys, but we're not. Far from it folks. I work at the hotel for $12.00 an hour (a good job for sure) just so I can indulge in some things that I find make life worth living.

Now that I know this bill has been paid I can relax now and get ready for my latest adventure with my Travel Buddy Pat at his new condo in downtown Hamilton. Last night while working at the hotel I went on the Internet and checked Trip Advisor for the ten best restaurants in Hamilton. We'll check them all out as well as enjoy some of the other local pleasures of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a former steel town undergoing a transformation into an urban delight for the 21st century folks.

Life is good folks. A few speed bumps here and there but overall, we're very lucky, Bill and I.  Unlike many of those poor folks who were in the path of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 


  1. Gosh, you are so right. How do people manage the system all on their own. Enjoy Hamilton.

    1. Jane,
      If I make it to my 80's or later, I wonder who will be there for me when I become doty.

    2. Anonymous8:17 AM

      A Delaware hairdresser voted for Trump to reduce her health care costs.Next year she will be paying 1000 a month for health care.Single payer plan health care is needed.

      Note,her yearly deductible is 6000

  2. It should simply be illegal to bill $3,300 for a service you are willing to do for $700. For my most recent blood tests the invoice was 10-times the negotiated price with my insurance plan.

  3. I dread getting ill as sickness is not affordable. It used to be people stayed away from hospital out of fear of contagion, Nowadays they shun hospital lest they go into bankruptcy.


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