I caught the flu a few months ago, the worst flu I’ve ever had. It wasn’t covid – I’ve never tested positive for covid – but it was a humdinger.
For over a week I was a mass on a bed, completely unable to move or do anything.
To make sure that I was not going to perish, I visited the emergency room of the hospital. They tested me for all sorts of things and five hours later they told me I had the flu and I could go home.
It was nice to be assured that all I had to do was let my immune system fight an uphill battle for the rest of the week.
It wasn’t so nice when the bills started coming in, which totaled over $7,000 – from what I can gather.
I have a decent health insurance policy through my client company who temporarily hired me as an employee to support a large project, so once the deductibles were met I owed about $2500 – from what I can gather.
Months later, I’m still in a state of total confusion and know it will take me hours to figure out how much I owe and to whom.
And I’m not alone. Millions of Americans are baffled by their health insurance policies and the convoluted bills they receive when, God forbid, they need health care.
According to the Portland Press Herald News, there are many hidden charges in medical bills that increase the cost of services, and there is no continuity between providers.
One hospital may charge $750 for an MRI and another may charge $3,000 or more for the same service.
Healthcare.com conducted a survey that found more than one in four Americans are confused by unexpected medical bills.
Confused about the difference between co-pays and franchises or in-network and out-of-network providers?
Well, queue up, because you’ve got plenty of company – but there might still be hope for all of us.
In January 2022, the law unsurprisingly came into force. It requires hospitals and health care providers to make public the fees they charge for services, according to MarketWatch.
The intention of this law is to prevent patients from being crushed by surprise bills, such as “balance billing”, which healthinsurance.org explains well.
Balance billing occurs when providers charge a patient the difference between the “retail price” they charge and the amount paid by the patient’s insurance, which is almost always less. When some providers charge the patient for the difference, or the balance, this is called “billing the balance.”
In other words, if you have an emergency and you seek treatment from a provider outside your network, you will have a large bill.
But under the No Surprises Act, patients are only responsible for their network charges.
It’s a good start, but the real problem is that our health care system is a confusing mess. It needs to be reformed from top to bottom.
If a person doesn’t have a decent health insurance policy – and decent policies are more expensive now – they are always at the mercy of receiving massive bills for necessary care.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find out who and how much I owe for catching the worst flu of my life.
Library freelance writer Tom Purcell is the author of ‘Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood’. Visit it on the web at TomPurcell.com.