Sticker shock and health­care woes

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We all have suf­fered through quite a few years of both suc­cess­ful and un­suc­cess­ful health­care re­form de­bate, but have you ever been with­out in­sur­ance and felt the real ef­fects? I didn’t un­til a re­cent sales slip at my phar­macy sent me into quite a shock.

I re­ceived a kid­ney trans­plant in the fall of 2002. At the time, I was on The Bert Show and was for­tu­nate enough to have good in­sur­ance that was slated to cover my surgery. But, a few weeks be­fore surgery, Pied­mont Hos­pi­tal and my in­sur­ance com­pany an­nounced they were cut­ting ties with one an­other, and the date their cur­rent agree­ment would end landed on the day be­fore my surgery.

The news was dev­as­tat­ing. It was like a happy end­ing had been ripped from me af­ter spend­ing years in many doc­tors’ of­fices and un­der­go­ing test­ing, di­ag­no­sis and a year of dial­y­sis. I voiced my frus­tra­tion through tears on the air only to be con­tacted at home later that evening by an ex­ec­u­tive with the in­sur­ance com­pany. She re­as­sured me that pre­vi­ously sched­uled pro­ce­dures, like my trans­plant, would now be cov­ered. The anx­i­ety of the whole ex­pe­ri­ence left a bad taste in my mouth with in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, but I was grate­ful the con­flict ended in my fa­vor.

Deal­ing with med­i­cal costs doesn’t end with the surgery. Af­ter a trans­plant, re­cip­i­ents must take sev­eral med­i­ca­tions ev­ery day in or­der to keep the trans­planted or­gan from be­ing re­jected by the body. With­out them, we could very eas­ily and quickly lose our lives. I knew those med­i­ca­tions could be ex­pen­sive, but didn’t re­al­ize the ex­act amount un­til the other day at the phar­macy.

Af­ter leav­ing Cox Me­dia Group, I signed up for CO­BRA in­sur­ance to cover my health­care un­til I get an­other full-time po­si­tion. For some rea­son, how­ever, there has been a stall in com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Cox and my in­sur­ance provider to ex­tend cov­er­age, and my in­sur­ance card was de­ac­ti­vated. Hav­ing run out of med­i­ca­tions, I was forced to pur­chase my pills out of pocket to the tune of over $2,000. And this is for only one month’s sup­ply.

As I sit here fil­ing my claim to get that ex­pense re­im­bursed, I can’t help but wish those mak­ing de­ci­sions about how we se­cure Amer­i­cans’ health went through sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences first. My story is mild com­pared to scores of peo­ple who have lost their jobs, credit, re­la­tion­ships and self-es­teem from ei­ther re­cov­ery time or fi­nan­cial stress, or both. Anx­i­ety does noth­ing to keep the body healthy, and should never be part of the process of health­care. But it’s as if ev­ery­one in­volved, from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to hos­pi­tals to sup­ply man­u­fac­tur­ers, knows we pa­tients are de­pen­dent on their ser­vices and thus can be eas­ily taken ad­van­tage of. Some­how the term “care” doesn’t seem to fit in health­care any­more.

Maybe we should de­ac­ti­vate law­mak­ers’ in­sur­ance cards un­ex­pect­edly to get the point across, since the health­care de­bate is not one for the healthy alone.

“It’s as if ev­ery­one in­volved, from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to hos­pi­tals to sup­ply man­u­fac­tur­ers, knows we pa­tients are de­pen­dent on their ser­vices and thus can be eas­ily taken ad­van­tage of. Some­how the term ‘care’ doesn’t seem to fit in health­care any­more.”

Melissa Carter is rec­og­nized as one of the first out ra­dio per­son­al­i­ties in At­lanta and has been heard over the years on B98.5 and Q100. In ad­di­tion, she is a writer for the Huff­in­g­ton Post. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @Melis­saCarter.

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