My Face Was Red With Anger and Awe…

… while I wrote out the check.

Several years ago, my son seemed to have a cold that just wasn’t going away. After what seemed like the 3rd week of a bad cold, I took him to the doctors. It turned out that my son just from lack of contact with many kids prior, just didn’t quite have the immunities so every cold he came into contact with, he got. While there, the doctor noticed my kindergartener had a tissue stuck up his nose. At the time, I had awful insurance with a $600 premium and a $4000 deductible because for some ungodly reason I didn’t qualify for cheaper insurance. (Thanks Romneycare.) The politics isn’t the point, the point happens here.

The doctor was our new doctor, so it was only our 3rd visit with him. This doctor took a pair of tweezers and pulled the tissue out of his nose. Easy and done, right? I thought so until when I got the bill for the visit, I had to pay $700: $100 for the visit and $600 for “object removal”. I called my insurance company, and since we were so healthy we didn’t need our deductible I had to pay for object removal. When I told her the object that was removed, she laughed with a “tough poop” attitude. (I don’t miss you Blue Cross, but I do love you Tufts.) I immediately decided to call the doctor’s office billing center to reason with this. She laughed when I told her my story, and when I thought I was going to get sympathy I get that “so would you like a payment plan?” No, I’d like you not to charge me $600 to pull a tissue out of my kid’s nose.

I forgot that story for a while. Then I got a bill from a Pathology department shortly after my return from the hospital for the items that come out after your birth. (Seriously, I thought they threw that out, not send it out for testing that costs $200.) It came back to me how much in awe I am for some things we end up getting charged with and for how much. This became even more apparent when I received a bill in the mail over the weekend from the doctor’s office. My newborn son had one rare condition that will hopefully be easily fixed in a few months by surgery. He had another rare-ish condition called “umbilical granuloma”, which is a fancy way of saying “part of the umbilical cord is still there and needs to be removed”. The doctor said all we needed was some nitrate and it’d heal right up. He took a q-tip looking thing and put it on my son’s belly button. It did exactly what he said and all was mostly fine. Then, I get my son’s first bill of all neonatal services done and I just quickly looked saying “$144 isn’t bad.” It wasn’t until I read the bill to write out the check when I noticed all the hospital services were free. That $144 was for a q-tip. I looked up in anger and said to my husband “that doctor has expensive supplies. A $600 set of tweezers and a $144 q-tip!”

This made me wonder if the real issue with healthcare wasn’t the cost of the insurance itself. Maybe the problem is really with the doctors and hospitals and the ridiculous prices on necessary services. I cringe to think of the monetary issues with the surgery as well as the “holy crap, my baby needs surgery”. I think the problem is the medical offices are allowed to charge whatever they want on things and there’s nothing as a patient or a consumer that you can do about it, which I guess is a problem with the insurance too. They choose what they cover and what they don’t, and don’t see a problem with these costs because everybody wins. Right? By everyone, I obviously mean the heads of these hospitals and insurance companies, because the everyday person that needs these services are definitely not the winners here.

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