I admit that I didn't watch the President's Health Care Speech the other night...I was busy doing the mom things that I have to do at night to keep everything on track. I also admit that my husband's job provides good health care (although VERY expensive for his small business), and that I generally don't worry about how to afford our medical care. In general, I agree with the need for health care reform, although I don't necessarily agree with the President's path to that reform.
HOWEVER...this morning, I saw the bill from my recent trip to the ER at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford when my 15-month-old bit completely through his tongue: $762.06. Sure, you say, you went to the ER. But, I say, all I got for that $762.06 was a dose of tylenol and a 3 hour wait. No doctor, no tests, no physical exam other than a 15 second attempted glance in a very bloody, screaming mouth. We got shuffled off to "Kids Express" (not the regular ER room) to see a nurse practitioner, and after her aborted attempt to look at the injury, she declared that there was nothing to be done and that I could go home.
I called billing at CCMC this morning and asked why I (really my insurance company) had paid so much. The reply I got was a bit astounding: "that's how much it costs to use the ER."
"But I didn't use it," I said. "I just waited for 3 hours, didn't even see a doctor, and you didn't do anything for my son except give him tylenol."
The woman's reply: "Oh, this bill doesn't include the nurse practitioner's bill. This is just for the privilege of using the ER - you had a Level 3 visit."
Apparently Level 3 is the "non-emergency" emergency visit cost. While I have a $50 co-pay for that, my insurance company paid $712.06 for tylenol, and it will also pay however much for the nurse practitioner's 15 seconds of "evaluating" my baby.
I don't disagree that having an excellent Children's Hospital is good for CT. We had a good experience there last year when my before-mentioned-child needed surgery at 5 months old. However, I am wondering about the 25+ other families that joined me that Friday night at 7:30pm. Given my experience, everyone else was at least a Level 3 or higher, so that means that every other family paid at least $762.06 to wait with me. If I had to make a crude assumption of health care coverage based on appearances alone (I know, this would be rude and based solely on gross stereotyping), I'd have to guess that not all the families there that night had the same coverage as me.
What's my point, then? I don't think the President (or Congress for that matter) can or should compel individuals to have health insurance, but I accept that some of you may disagree with me. I certainly believe health insurance should cost the same for any business, despite its size, because insurance company costs are spread out across ALL members of the insurance company, not just a specific business that buys insurance for its employees. And finally, let's get real about what hospitals are up to. Just as we're supposed to have "truth in lending" disclosure for mortgages, how about "truth in treatment" costs as well? I accept the concept of triage and separate facilities for treating lesser injuries. That's efficient and it makes sense. But there's no way that a single dose of tylenol and the "privilege" of waiting for 3 hours should cost over $700. No matter who is paying, that just doesn't make any sense, and we shouldn't tolerate it.
We can't put off "reform" for much longer, especially as the jobs that do provide health care coverage grow more and more scarce. Let's not be afraid of the word itself, for I see some very clear areas where we could start, and it wouldn't cost tax payer dollars to get started. My insurance company has no problem rejecting my chiropractor all the time: the poor man has to spend twice as much time justifying his treatment plan for my injured shoulder, down to the number of minutes he spends doing whatever he does. BUT, no one batted an eyelash at $762.06 for tylenol, so either I'm totally in the wrong business, or I stumbled across a really obvious place to support the President's call for reform.