Uninsured comic artist with cancer draws the moment she opens first big medical bill

[larger size.] Chicago-based comic artist Laura Park (@llaurappark) was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She underwent surgery in June, and illustrated the moment she opened the first big bill in July.

I know that feel, bro. I know that feel.

(via Emma Smith)


    1. I’m a very proud American, and I’ve been lucky enough (knock on wood) to always have good health insurance when I’ve needed it. But I also know that this is not guaranteed, and I also know that many people are in different circumstances. I certainly would not give up my American citizenship because of this, but luckily I live in a country in which citizens can effect change, and I do believe we are currently seeing change occur in the health care area — too slowly, however, in my opinion — but it is happening nonetheless. Unfortunately, if President Obama is not reelected, I’m not sure if any additional progress will be made, or if the progress we have made thus far will stand. BUT, I do believe in the long run, health care will be a right in this country.

  1. What are the options for you Americans when faced with such a bill? I don’t know Xeni’s financial situation but don’t unexpected bills like this ruin you?

    1. Generally, yes, you declare bankruptcy.  The system is pretty jacked.  Even if you don’t go with bankruptcy, you can still get screwed.  A friend with a $100k+ bill worked out a payment plan with the hospital, was making every payment, but one day the hospital board or something decided they’d rather have a little money now than a lot later, they sold his debt to a collector for 20 cents on the dollar, and THAT wrecked his credit rating.  They would have gotten every penny over time, instead they got 20%.  Since his credit rating got destroyed anyway, my friend THEN declared bankruptcy anyway.

  2. So… that “uninsured discount” basically means that with health insurance, you’d get charged more for the same things because… why?

    1. With health insurance they charge different rates altogether, negotiated by the insurance company (and vary widely). Those rates are then further discounted by your plan (for instance, mine pays 80% of that rate, and I’m responsible for the 20%).

      The entire healthcare pricing system is a racket.

    2. Insurance companies tend to negotiate lower rates. The price without the “uninsured discount” is a bullshit price anyway — and what she’s paying is likely quite a bit *more* than an insurance company would pay. I’m not really sure why it helps hospitals to quote prices that are artificially inflated, but it must help somehow.

    3. Having been both insured an uninsured, talking with docs to understand my bill both ways, this is a pretty common practice.  Doctors and hospitals have a fair amount of leeway in billing, and most of them try to help you out a bit when they can, or alternatively when it may increase their chances of getting paid.

      So, the Dr or hospital sets their schedule of rates – so much for a checkup, for an in-house x-ray, for an overnight stay, etc.  Insurance companies then negotiate separate, better rates for their customers.  The bigger the insurance company, the more negotiating power they have.  Doctors and hospitals agree to this because 1) they are more likely to receive payment for treating insured patients, and 2) not accepting major medical insurance companies basically cuts them off from their customers as patients.

      Doctors and hospitals can increase the amount the ultimately negotiate for by pricing their services on the high end of acceptable (there is loads of data for how much what costs in what geographic area, so no sky high pricing).  However, most health care providers are decent people (you really don’t go into it for the money), so they will also offer a comparable discount to uninsured patients – especially those that ask for it, and mention they aren’t part of the 1%.  Why should the provider do this?  It 1) makes it more affordable for the patients, 2) means the patient is more likely do give them their business, 3) means the patient is more likely to pay their bill, and 4) is a generally nice thing to do. 

      Now, uninsured patient discounts vary, and I think they run comparable to insurance discounts.  In similar ranges, anyways. 

      Also, you can often negotiate an even bigger discount by paying at time of service, especially if paying in cash.  I mean a huge discount, say half off.  You see, health care providers have to allow for the fact that they are going to be stiffed on a large number of the debts owed to them.  Insured patients mean paid bills more often, but there are still a good number of times they eat the cost due to a dispute.  A patient cash in hand means they know they are getting paid, and that in itself is worth a lot to them.  An uninsured patient, paying cash at time of service, can easily pay less out of pocket than a patient insured with a high-deductible plan who is being billed.

      Keep in mind, I’ve looked at this as a fully insured patient with a small copay, an uninsured patient, and a patient with high deductible plan linked to an HSA.

  3. Can someone explain how this is supposed to work for the Canadians in the audience? If you can’t afford insurance, there’s no way you could pay this, right? So is she just expected to declare bankruptcy?

      1. I’m having a little trouble grasping how this is supposed to function. The hospital bills people knowing they’ll declare bankruptcy? To what end?

        1.  If the bill is allowed to become a charge-off due to insolvency of the charged party, the hospital can write it off as a loss. Otherwise they continue to spend money on collections. Much easier for them if you’re in the poorhouse. Nother cuppa unbridled capitalism for ya?

          1.  So the hospitals charge the uninsured more with the expectation that it becomes a larger tax write off?

        2.  They “write it off” in their taxes. That way, they get some benefit from not being paid from tax relief. My college roommate worked in a medical billing office at night for extra money. They bill the patient, and eventually if the patient cannot pay and has a low enough income and no assets SUPPOSEDLY the patient can qualify for Medicaid, and anything that is billed between the patient running out of money and getting Medicaid is a tax write-off, but they still continue to bill, hire collection agencies, etc. The bureaucracy for qualifying for and receiving Medicaid is so onerous that people die before they get approved (as was the case with one of my aunts who got cancer and got Medicaid approval a week after she passed away). Essentially, the American public ends up paying for it anyway between corporate tax write-offs and Medicaid, which kind of flies in the face of the “socialism” argument against government-funded healthcare. It’s already government funded, just in a roundabout way, and it financially destroys the patient. Very stupid system. I’m a very proud American and feel lucky to be born in America, but this system needs to change, and I do believe it will. We have a “rugged individualism” attitude in this country that sometimes (as in the case of healthcare) defies common sense.

        3. Nonprofit hospitals are tax exempt and chartered by state governments within the US; part of that charter requires them to show value to the community or “community benefit.” One of the ways the hospital shows that is through their charity care program (for which rules are totally allowed to vary by hospital), and their total uncompensated care. In addition, hospitals of all ownership types receive a supplemental “Disproportionate Share Payment” from Medicaid based on reported uncompensated care provided to Medicaid and uninsured patients http://1.usa.gov/PMqeiH (this amount will be reduced as portions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect). 
          Uncompensated care includes not only charity care but also the bad debt write-down that the hospital takes for bills issued that can’t be collected on. 

          So there’s an incentive for the hospital to issue the bill, and hope that some portion gets paid in cash, with the rest getting booked as “bad debt.” Some hospitals will indeed deem the rest of the balance “charity” but others won’t. Capricious might be the word. Bankruptcy can and does result. 

          Horror stories abound. Here’s one via NPR. http://n.pr/PMpSIS   Here’s an analysis of uncompensated care by hospital ownership (http://1.usa.gov/PMq1Mz ). Yes there is a better way (http://www.pnhp.org/ )

    1. Hospitals will work out a payment plan. They don’t expect you to write a check for $67k at the time of discharge.

    2. When I had my back surgery two years ago, we thankfully had insurance. Still, we had to come up with close to $5000 in deductible and out-of-pocket expenses. We discovered that, if you can’t pay it immediately, the hospital in our area sends you to a third-party loan company, to cover the expense. The hospital doesn’t carry accounts. You either pay in-full, or go get a loan.

      Of course, as I said, this was just a deductible payment. There’s no way we could have be able to take-on a loan to cover the whole cost of the surgery. The billing to the insurer was north of $40,000. I can’t imagine what it would have been if we had been uninsured. Double?

  4. How can you possibly have cancer surgery and come out with ONLY a $67,000 bill?  That sounds like what you’d get billed for removing a melanoma or something – was that it?  For any kind of internal surgery, I would have guessed that the pre-op tests would probably push close to this number.
    I’m not saying this doesn’t suck, just that it shouldn’t be unexpected.

      1. Indeed. I’ve got a *very* thick folder of them from my bout last year, and had to be extremely careful to cross check every charge from a provider with the associated insurance claim – they didn’t always catch everything or process it. Took months just to pay the bills.

    1. My mother used to routinely receive bills in the 6-digit range.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the total hit $1 million.  Luckily, as a former federal employee of some stature, she has great insurance.  Most people aren’t so lucky.  I live in a dirt-cheap apartment complex.  Many of my neighbors are actually people who live here because they had to sell their homes to pay for their cancer treatment.

    2. Thyroid cancer is kind of the winning lottery ticket of cancers.  I had it last year, and needed two surgeries (they didn’t think the 5cm lump was cancerous at first), plus a radiation therapy followup.  I’m insured, and out of pocket we ended up somewhere around $8k-$10k.  The biggest expense was an assisting surgeon (that I was not told I would have) that wasn’t a “network provider”.  

    3. My daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma last October and just finished treatment a couple of months ago.  
      I started a spreadsheet to track the bills coming in (they stopped using legal sized envelopes to send the bills and moved to 8 1/2″ x 11″ envelopes pretty quickly) and the pile is remarkably tall.  

      The running total of what the hospital submitted to our insurance about mid-way through was just north of $150K.  This was after a nearly three week hospital stay, biopsy (by far the largest expense), and the very beginnings of chemo.  The number does not include the remainder of chemo, a couple more very exciting inpatient experiences and four weeks of radiation.  I’ve got to update the spreadsheet, but I think we’ve edged up near $300K by now.

      When you compare the amount billed to the amount allowed by insurance it’s  pretty obviously there’s a racket going on.  And there seemed to be no rhyme or reason.  One line item was $116,775.69  billed vs. $36,719.52 allowed (31%), while another is $1,371.00 billed by $973.41 allowed (71%).

      Without good insurance coverage we’d be completely done.  Even with it, it’s been hard.  Something has to change.

    4. What should it cost? If it takes a few hours of time from a few people, and the hire of some equipment for a couple of hours, how about a couple of thousand? It can be argued both ways.

          1. @facebook-1515015318:disqus The Greens are actually closer to Red Tories than the NDP (and were in fact mostly founded by PC discontents in much the same way as the BQ were).

          1. What notion of insanity were you entertaining with the very thought that medical professionals would need to work for free under any system?
            Canadian Doctors and Nurses are well paid, specialists make more than general practitioners, and you can be damn sure to look in ANY hospital parking lot in the Doctors lot and NOT see any less than a majority of Mercedes, Land Rover, BMW etc.
            Good luck finding one to help with your delusions.

          2. My point is that everything comes with a cost. People always say that health care should be free or that it should cost $0.00, but that is totally unrealistic. Hell, I would love it if health care was free. But, as you figured out, doctors must be paid. Somebody mentioned paying $10 a gallon for gas to ensure health care costs for the nation. I’d be all for it.

          3. “Free” isn’t the best word – EXCEPT when compared to the American system. Canadians pay less taxes for health care than Americans. Yes, really. The difference is that Canadians then GET that health care, where Americans have to pay a second time. It’s “free” by American standards.

            When I walked out of the emergency room there was no bill, because my taxes had already paid for it.  The doctors and nurses were well paid.  An American walking out of the emergency room has paid even more taxes for that visit – but he still gets handed a bill that can and often will bankrupt him.

    5. A really interesting thing to find out would be: if the same procedure had been performed at a, say, Canadian hospital, for an uninsured patiant, how much would the procedure be billed at?

      I’d bet, a lot less.

      1. It can happen, those travelling here without secondary coverage who need care are responsible for paying.
        Do not think you will find many stories of tourists to Canada going bankrupt as a result of medical costs incurred.
        And you would certainly win that bet.

  5. The United States’ current medical “system” is a moral outrage. The health care reform act, while not an ideal system for many, will save lives and livelihoods. It is a step in the right direction. It can be built upon. It’s also a tangible reason to actively participate in this election season.

    Please consider getting involved whether it’s donating money or time to a campaign or just talking to people about why health care reform deserves their support at the polls.

  6. Yeah, I JUST got out of the hospital for gall bladder surgery. It was $36K. The emergency room visit alone was 11 or 12 thousand dollars. God bless America.

    1. I went to the ER for what turned out to be biliary colic, had a bunch of tests, spent the night and had a $30K bill. And I didn’t even have surgery. And this was ~ 8 years ago. Fortunately, I was insured.

      1. That must one of those hospitals which are like the TV shows.  Y’know, absolutely no nurses and doctors who see the patients eight times a day.  Like on House.

        1. If I had been able to see a doctor, I wouldn’t have spent the night there.  The doctor showed up the following afternoon to tell me that my x-ray from the previous morning showed gallstones.

          1.  This  is to say nothing of your outrageous bill, but when a patient comes in with an acute abdominal complaint, no matter what the signs and symptoms point to, certain high mortality diagnoses have to be ruled out . No doctor in the world would look at a plain x-ray from a patient with an acute abdomen, see gallstones, and say, “Oh, that must be it then.”

          2. I had an EKG, CXR, KUB, Abd CT, Abd US and a completely unnecessary aortic angiogram. And a set of cardiac enzymes. And they still waited a day to discharge me. It was quite clear that the doctors just hadn’t gotten around to dealing with me.

            I might also point out that the nurse insisted that I have a low sodium diet because I was on the cardiac floor, despite my BP being 90/50. And she refused to let me stand at the side of the bed to pee post angio, but was perfectly prepared to send me for a treadmill test and couldn’t understand why I refused to go. Don’t get sick in Palm Springs.

            What makes it funny is that I worked for several years as a compliance nazi, prepping inpatient units for JCAHO audits.

          3. I’d say everything except the angiogram and maybe the KUB was reasonable, or at least the “standard of care” (in case the doc had to defend his or her management in court, which in today’s society is as big of a management factor as the patient’s well being). But if your BP was 90/50 I can see why they did the angio. Abdominal aortic aneurysm is one of those “can’t miss” diagnoses. And you can blame the doc for the low sodium diet. The nurse is just following the doc’s diet orders and nurses have to cover their asses as much as everybody else.

            I got no excuse for the post angio stress test.

    1.  Yes in France most of treatment like this is free and let’s not forget to mention France has some of the best hospitals for treating cancer in the world. When I lived in the US I used French private insurance for someone abroad as US insurance with my heart condition was more than I could afford. My heart medication would have been about $1500 a month otherwise. I am happy to be home. Give us sh*t about being Socialists all you want – just humour me and tell what the difference between Socialism and Communism is – as most Americans I’ve met can’t. No one should have to make the choices and sacrifices that Americans do just to be healthy. It’s just evil.

  7. So this inevitably leads to bankruptcy. How does that help? Doesn’t that mean nobody gets paid? It doesn’t make sense to  me.

    I mean, the NHS can be pretty grotty at times, and the quality of care and waiting times are pretty awful, but it’s better than total financial ruin. There’s a lot I don’t miss about the UK, but I don’t like having to budget for going to to the doctors or dentists like I have to over here, and the thought of getting seriously ill scares me.

    How does it work with employer paid insurance? They cover you, while you’re healthy. Then you get ill, can’t go to work, lose your job, lose your employee medical insurance, get a huge bill, lose your house and all your possessions, then declare bankruptcy, then die? Have I missed anything? (If you’re self employed presumably you get to skip the first few steps).

    Yay freedom.

    1.  I’ve found the quality of NHS care I receive to be consistently higher than the care I got when I lived in America. Yeah, I have to wait for non-urgent things, but if I were in the States, I would have waited longer having to save up for things.

      I think I was often over-treated in America and offered interventions that I didn’t need. I could see how that might look like higher quality care if you’re not used to being over-medicated, but it’s really really not better.

      1. It’s swings and roundabouts. From my experience of the US healthcare system, people seem to feel short-changed if they don’t walk out of a doctor’s appointment without a prescription for antibiotics or ludicrously strong painkillers, regardless of what they went in for. My old dentist gave out vicodin pills like they were Smarties. I never even considered filling the prescription.

        OTOH, when you go to see a doctor here, things just get done. No messing, no waiting (an operation I had here was scheduled in a week, in the UK with BUPA it was similar, on the NHS it was months); doctors surgeries and hospitals seem cleaner, more modern, better equipped and friendlier than their NHS equivalents, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, doctors and dentists have the time to deal with their patients properly, rather than rushing them through like they do in the UK (and you can do crazy things like getting an appointment to see your GP). However, I’m not stupid, I’m sure they can do that because they charge so much more,  and because they have a financial incentive to perform operations. I think that NHS dentists have complained about the amount of patients they are expected to deal with each day, and the commensurate drop in quality of care.

    2. Yes, everything you desrcibed is what is currently happening to me. In that order. 

      It’s a good thing I spent those 11 years working as an emergency paramedic trying to help save lives…

  8. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” ….. or I’ll even take the 98% that don’t make the upper crust … Then I’ll take all their money and bankrupt them if they have the gall to get sick. 

  9. Please Americans, fix your unsympathetic medical system. It’s looks as if you believe money matters more than people, and that can’t be right. Are you Ferengi?

    I had the same operation (with an extra week in hospital due to a reaction to the anaesthetic), and the radio iodine 131, and follow up CT scans. And a lifetime prescription for thyroxine. The cost to me was the $12 cab fare home from the hospital. Surely this is a better way to treat sick people.

    Best wishes to Laura Park. A full recovery and a magic money tree for you. You too, Xeni.

    1. I find this sort of statement frustrating, as though American people don’t _want_ to fix the current system. Many of them _do_. We can vote, we can campaign, and we can try to effect a change. Some of us have been fighting for a long time.

      It is difficult to fight against an entrenched industry that has lobbyists in place who fight to defeat any legislation that might regulate their industry. It is difficult to fight the flow of money that goes into the pockets of our so-called leaders. It is supremely frustrating that these same bastards in government receive an excellent healthcare package, funded by taxpayer money. 

      And then there’s the propaganda, but that’s to be expected in this environment, I suppose.

      So what can we do, exactly? Take up arms?  It is to laugh.

      I suppose we could protest in a Free Speech Zone. That’d show ’em.

      Sorry. I suppose I’m getting increasingly cynical with age. I believe it will take a monumental crisis or massive upheaval caused by a unified opinion (difficult to achieve in a nation with the area and population of the U.S.!) in order to effect such change. It will take a change that causes people to question what “America” is or what being “American” means. Sure, we’ve had a couple of baby steps in the right direction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but that’s taken us… well… it’s been 19 years since the Clinton Health Care Act of 1993, and we’re still divided on the issue. Still!

      1. Indeed.
        I apologise for pointing out (like you didn’t already know) that there is another way. I know you know, and I sympathise with your frustration. I don’t have any answers, but I sincerely hope a means of change can be found and implemented. Nobody should have to suffer for someone else’s greed.

    2.  OH! It turns out it was up to us all along!
      Well then, expect a fix by 5PM this afternoon!
      Sorry for the delay! We’ll be sure to follow up tomorrow and see how everyone’s doing!

      Seriously, I understand where you’re coming from, but you should understand that it frustrates the majority of Americans who are generally good people. Changing things in our country causes a lot of discomfort to the Bourgeois pigs, and unfortunately/paradoxically requires their legal and financial assistance since they are the ones who pull the strings on our political leaders.

  10. I am simply amazed at how blatant the racket is:  “We inflate our charges to insurers by 30% because we are certain they will pay them.” I hate geezing, but lawyers and insurance really have been systematically dismantling this country for far too long.

    1. They inflate the rate by 30% because they know insurers will not pay them whatever rates they have on their schedule, the insurers will only pay a substantially lower negotiated rate.  Think about it as any seller overstating their price to gain an advantage in haggling (except that this isn’t some farmer’s market, and it’s people’s well-being instead of produce being bought and sold).

    2. Insurers don’t pay that; they pay much, much less. You see, they are poor.

      Uninsured people on the other hand… they can afford to pay substantially more.

    3. The uninsured discount jumped out at me too. I recently had an accident while Curling and was taken to the ER. The bill for six stitches was around $8500. Once I provided my insurance information (which I gave them in the ER before anyone would even see me but it apparently got lost), the bill dropped to $4200. Of that, the insurance company  refused to pay a penny on the $850 ambulance bill. According to the insurance company, I should have found someone to take me to the ER, hired a taxi or used public transportation since having a possible concussion, being unconscious for several minutes, 
      and bleeding out of my face wasn’t life threatening. But after the deductable and me paying the whole cost of the ambulance, the insurance paid about $3200 to settle the bills. Without insurance, I would have had to pay the full $8500. This is part of the libertarian theory that people in need of medical care should have the negotiating skills to haggle for a lower rate while in the ER and go to a competing hosptial across town if they don’t like the deal they’re getting.

      The other weird thing was how many bills I initially received. One from the ambulance company, one from the ER doctor, one from the hospital, two from the MRI company, and one from the plastic surgeon who put in the actual stitches. I can’t imagine there is no additional cost in having so many different entities handling paperwork and accounting.

      1. I had a similar problem. An ER visit yielded separate bills from hospital, doctor, and lab. I paid everything I received and got a ding on my credit report because the doctor’s bill was sent to a 20-year-old address.

        1. When I had a kidney stone blasted c. 1985, I had an HMO, HealthNet. After more than a year, they hadn’t paid the bill. The urology department (I worked on the uro floor) finally wrote off their whole part of the bill so that I wouldn’t end up in collections.

      2. The little secret about many, if not most, hospitals (at least in the US) is that all they are are big boxes full of basic equipment and a basic staff, like nurses, orderlies, etc. ER doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, specialists, etc are all independent contractors who bill their services separately. I’ve even seen some imaging departments that were independent of the main hospital, even though they were located in the building. This is why you get so many bills for a single visit.

      3. Out of curiosity, how much would they charge for a 3am admission to A&E for a gastric complaint, for a couple of hours, blood tests and a couple of IV shots of omeprazole and diazepam? Cos that was my experience yesterday evening and on the NHS it cost me no more than my usual tax bill.

        1. Thousands. My roommates bill for what amounted to dehydration was around 3500 dollars. He was there for 8 hours, saw a doctor for 5 minutes, a nurse for 20, and a quick chest xray and the rest of the time he was either waiting to be seen in triage or sitting with an IV to help re hydrate him. Just walking into an ER and checking in, without treatment, is hundreds of dollars. We got bills for a month or two just from that one visit.

  11. I’d be interested in knowing whether there’s been any modeling done on the effects of universal healthcare on the economy – not just how it affects the insurance companies, but the affects on  financial institutions, etc.  If we had a sharp decline in bankruptcies, who would benefit?  We need them to buy us some politicians that can get universal healthcare passed. 

  12. At least she was enjoying her freedom to not buy health insurance.  Imagine if she faced a penalty every year for living without it!  That would be awful.

    (/sarcasm, of course.  I am in no way trying to say that Laura is some libertarian douchebag who thinks it makes sense to intentionally remain uninsured.  I’m sure she would have very much liked to have been.  It’s sad that the fantasy of saving money “while you are young and healthy” appeals to so many Americans, most of whom are lucky to actually be insured through their jobs.)

  13. Yet, there are people opposed to a healthinsureance like we in Germany have it.
    This is simply barbaric!

  14. Showing the bill for someone without insurance is truly scary.  But, what I think gets neglected is what this bill would be with insurance.  It’s still going to be a pretty decent sized number.  And that, of course, is on top of the thousands paid in premiums a year.

    For example, I recently dislocated my shoulder falling off my bicycle and had to get surgery.  Even with great insurance, my share of the bill will probably be about $3k (at least I hope it’s that low).  Add to that the $2.5k I pay in premiums, and I’ll have $5.5k in medical expenses for insurance + one bicycle accident.  My Canadian-born wife is really confused by this notion that we still have to write thousands of dollars worth of checks even though we have supposedly great insurance.

    As she puts it, “So, I have to pay thousands of dollars to an insurance company.  Then, when I get sick, I still have to pay for it myself until the deductible is covered.  After that, the insurance company still doesn’t pay for everything, I just get a discount?  You realize your country’s idea of insurance makes no sense, right?”

    That’s the thing that still gets lost in all these debates.  If you recall, Michael Moore, in the beginning of Sicko, says that the movie isn’t about the problems of the uninsured, but those with insurance.  The PP-ACA (aka Obamacare) fixes some of the problems, but it’s still a really screwed up system, even for those with insurance.  Sure, the insured are better off than the uninsured, but it’s still screwed up.  Medical costs can still bankrupt you, even if you’re insured.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a decent portion of medical bankruptcies actually come from people with health insurance.

  15. The hatred thrown at “Obamacare” is unbelievable to me.  This story is exactly why this country voted Obama into office.  He wanted to fix this.  I hope that the GOP fails in their bid to repeal it, because I feel sad to think this is happening hundreds of times a day in what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world.

    1. What gets me is this: Obamacare is best described as “15 years of REPUBLICAN health care policy, right up until the very moment Obama adopted it when his public option was defeated.”

      It mirrors the Romneycare plan that was lauded by candidate John McCain, is very similar to a proposal made to candidate McCain by the Health Insurance lobby, and the Republican alternative to ClintonCare. Even the individual mandate they now declare unconstitutional was championed for years by Gingrich and other prominent Republicans.

      Had McCain won in 2008, THIS is the plan the Republicans would have introduced. It would have been labelled “McCainCare”, and those now opposing it would instead be supporting it.

      1. And that is the real sad truth, blind support based on ‘who’s’ idea it is, not on the merit of it. Ideological discrimination.
        “It does not matter the world is coming to an end, so long as we can blame the other guy for it!”

      2.  OK, well those sound like good reasons to hate Obamacare and to push for at least a public option, or better yet universal single payer (Medicare for all), or even better yet complete socialization of the healthcare industry.

  16. Thyroid cancer in 2012: That was very likely caused by Fukushima. Just saying…

    P.S. I’d drop dead before I’d go anywhere near a US cancer ward, or the medical system in general for anything except accident care. While I probably disagree with most on this board as to why our system is so fucked, it is truly FUBAR. Medical tourism makes much, much more sense…

    1. “Just saying” things that are 1) not based in fact or evidence, 2) hurtful in their speculative nature, 3) fucking stupid. How the fuck do you know what caused her cancer? FYI, hard tumors can take years, even a decade to form. There is no reason to believe that a nuclear accident on the other side of the world caused this woman’s cancer. In fact, all of the easily-googleable science, right there at your keyboard-tips, would explicitly prove otherwise.

      1. The I-131 did reach America, and in amounts that are capable of causing health problems, specifically thyroid problems. It IS highly likely that this will lead to an increase in thyroid cancers over the coming years.

        But I looked into it more. It does indeed take several years for such things to manifest. While it’s possible, what I wrote was not true and badly worded. Sorry.

    2. Unless I’m mistaken, the author lives in the US, so unless she’s importing milk from Japan I would be surprised if this could be linked with Fukushima.  I guess it’s not impossible that a radioactive particle from Japan made it across the ocean and into her body, but the odds don’t look promising. 

    3. Fun fact: the radiation in much of Japan including Tokyo at this very moment is all but negligible, a fraction of  that of Central Europe (e.g. Germany). If you don’t live in the immediate vicinity of Fukushima (like, you know, elsewhere in Japan or in another fucking country, like this woman) there is nothing that supports your unsubstantiated wild guess.

      Be so kind as to put your anti-Nipponism where the sun don’t shine. Thanks in advance.

    4. The type of treatment she got signifies that she probably had a slow growing cancer that took years to show up and was probably giving her symptoms of thyroid disease for some time (these are easy to write off as other things). Chances are she was hypothyroid for quite a while before getting a diagnosis, making it very unlikely that the earthquake could have affected her. As some one who is on permanent thyroid cancer watch, please don’t make assumptions about how or why myself or anyone might get sick. 

  17. In America, people have the right to make a dollar. That right over rides every other right-ALL OF THEM. No matter how illogical, retarded or illegal the idea, as long as a buck can be made, that’s the route taken, screw everyone else. So many people die with poor health care, but the right for the system to make unGodly amounts of money is more important.

  18. Here in the UK the same treatment, all be it in a slightly less shiny hospital, would have cost exactly $00.00. If you were off work due to it, even if self employed, you’d get assistance from the government.
    That’s all a bit too socialist for you guys across the pond though isn’t it.

    1. Up here in Canada it’s unthinkable to be bankrupt from medical bills.
      We get all twisty because we have to pay for glasses or dentist or prescriptions… but surgery or hospital bills? Horrible.

      1. Unless you’re young and have some rare and valuable skill set, almost impossible. Unless you can claim refugee status. Or you’re fabulously wealthy.

          1. That’s no guarantee anymore. The UK has deported spouses after several years of marriage and a child or two.

    2. No, it wouldn’t cost you $00.00, because you’d have to pay higher taxes to pay for the NHS, or if you couldn’t afford it, then someone else would have to pay for you. Medicine doesn’t cost $00.00.

  19. I don’t think the ‘Like’ buttons are very appropriate for this thread. Perhaps ‘This Makes Me Sad’ or ‘This Scares Me’ or ‘This Disgusts Me’ would be better.

  20. I had a near fatal rollover about 3 months ago. All my online friends from southern united states  forgot where i lived and said: “wow that must have been an expensive hospital bill?” “No.” i replied “I live in canada, remember?” The rest of the conversation went the direction of people who want to move to canada.

  21. I once made the mistake of stating to an American on FB in regards to ‘Obamacare’ that: I was proud to live in a nation like Canada where good healthcare was assured regardless of finances.
    The responses were shocking and angry.
    I was told in no uncertain terms that: this was the very reason thier forefathers left the Monarchy to create America so they would be free, and not have to abide by the whims of a King, that our medical system was unfair as it ‘forces’ caregivers to treat sick patients and no system should ‘force’ people to treat the sick, and that those without medical coverage deserve what they get as it is thier own fault they cannot afford it.
    By stating simply that I appreciate the system my country has in place, it was read as an attack on them and thier great nation.
    Finally I caved and spilled the beans and told them the truth, that Canada was indeed a communist country that forced thier youth into medical shool and made them become doctors and nurse so they may spend thier lives treating sick people against their will.
    What I came away from that encounter with was, the stark realization that what is truly diseased is the average American mindset and thier belief that anything that is not American is flawed. So much so that they would ignore or dismiss anything not seen as ‘American”.
    They got thier wish, they are no longer ruled by the British Monarchy, the Corporate King is in charge now and only one thing is for certain, King Corporation cares not for the avg person once thier wallet is empty.

    Free, America. Two words that together have lost all meaning. For in truth someone always pays a hefty price, but it does not matter as long a its someone else, right?

    1. I was camping in Montana two weeks ago, and our neighbour was a cancer survivor, she talked about how good her insurance was because her husband worked for the post office. We mentioned we were Canadian, and they were awed. Asked us “what’s that like? You can go to any doctor anywhere any time and not have to pay?” – still not sure how to answer that question…

  22. DH and I have just turned 60.  Our biggest fear is major medical expense.  Just think, one severe illness or serious accident and everything we worked for, all our efforts to be frugal and meet our financial obligations, our great credit score, the house we paid for…everything could be lost.  The United States is so far behind other countries in providing affordable medical care.  It’s disgraceful. As always, the love of money is behind all evil; somebody is lining his or her pockets while the rest of us quake in our boots.

      1. Come on, Missy! How would you pay for the expenses if you, lets say, recieved a bill in around 60.000 – 70.000 USD?

        Here in Norway, everything is free if you get ill. It should be manageable to give some relief to the citizens of the US if your government want to.

        It is for the benefit of everybody(except the insurance companies).

        1. I’m Canadian, so its all free for us too.
          Each state is different with its bankruptcy laws, so it’s an honest question.

          And honestly, if they gave me a $70,000 bill I wouldn’t sell everything or my home to pay it, I would immediately declare bankruptcy, I wouldn’t even attempt to pay it, that’s madness.

          1. Yeah, but if you claim bankrupcy. Would they not just sell your home and everything you got of value in order to protect their own interests?

          2. Rune – I had to look this up because I was under the assumption that your principal residence was protected under Canadian bankruptcy law, but it is not. Its complicated but it seems you can keep your home but you have to give up the equity in it… so yes and no, they kinda make you give up your equity to the trustee but they don’t take your home.

      2. When filing bankruptcy, you have to declare all your assets, and only a small percentage (I think when I did it, it was $5000? $10,000? … been a long while now) is protected from liquidation. So the court can effectively say “you have this thing of value, you must use it to cover some of what you owe.” I didn’t have anything of value (I rented and drove an old Subaru) so all debt was discharged.

        Edit: Wanted to add that, since I did that less than 10 years ago, the bills I’m accumulating now from having cancer CAN’T be discharged in bankruptcy. Unless I am still paying them a long while from now, I suppose…

          1.  Because I already did bankruptcy once, that’s right, I can’t do it again for several years*. It’s my own fault I didn’t foresee a catastrophe, you see, and save it for later on in life. :-

            *- Note, I do understand the point of not allowing people to just keep discharging their credit foul-ups again and again. If I had the chance to do it over, I’d still have gone through with it when I did.

  23. I live in Canada :recently my husband had some amazing inovative surgery,,requiring 3 or 4 called in specialsts who consulted for a day.and did a 4 hr  unusual by pass  and saved him from having his leg amputated they saved his life and he kept his leg/is alive and well with just the use of a cane or walker he is 84 .he had a7 week hospital and also a  rehabilitation facility stay /was given rehab .is home now with daily visits from home care personell.has had the house fitted with safety  bars in the bathroom etc,and has now again spent a week in hospital having his meds ajusted ;in the coronary unit,he’s being released today..he sees his doctor at least twice a month ;and there is much more:: cost ..ZERO…we bought a sheepskin to alieviate bed sores ..for a couple hundred bucks..because we are seniors there are services such as bus service,,shopping services etc etc he does not yet  use but are available for a small 5. 10 dollar fee..and i complain that we now have longer emergency wait times than in the 1950s and 1960s etc..I will now shut up!! and thank god for our free medicare here in Canada,,after reading this.. !! and for the “socialists  in govt who  installed it!! Amen.

  24. We’re still lucky enough to have an NHS here in the  UK, but we’re counting the weeks til Dave our illustrious leader sells the whole thing off to his mates in big business.  He’s already closing stuff down all over the place, but it’s ok, because he’s brought in the Jesus like healers that are ATOS.  Yes the same company that got banned from operating in America because they were a shower of fraudulent, hateful schysters.

    Now if you have terminal cancer, and have 6 months to live, just go to an ATOS assessment, they’ll tick a few boxes, rate you ‘fit for work’ and cancel all your welfare. You’re CURED! All that and you won’t cost the state anything until you hurry up and drop dead.

    Don’t worry, America, we’ve followed you into all sorts of shit, and now we’re following you into the gutter with healthcare too.  Sad thing is, is seems you’re at least moving up, we’re throwing it all away.

  25. Dude.  I am from Canada where the vast majority of health care is free.  I cannot imagine the stress of this.  I’ve watched the health care “debate” in the US and it blows my mind what big business and Republicans are getting away with.  Demand better from your government.  This should be UNACCEPTABLE.  

  26. I work at a hospital -not in billing, thank every conceivable deity- but after working for a while, I’ve gotten to know how things get billed and after talking with a cashier who used to work for my department let me share the conclusion I’ve reached:

    You pay for the uninsured.
    If you’re a taxpayer, or are insured yourself, you’re paying for it.

    There are a lot of convolutions, but in the end, everyone pays for their share of the shittastic-healthcare pie. Your premiums go up as hospitals try to control costs. They can only write off so much and the government (read: you) only pitches in so much, so in the end- the insured pay a certain amount for the uninsured.

    This is what drives me crazy about opposition to single payer: We’re already paying for other people’s medical problems- we’re just stupid and inefficient at it.

    I get excellent benefits where I work too. Aside from excellent insurance, I get a substantial discount for services rendered by the hospital. So believe me- I’ve got mine. I’m not advocating single payer because I need it. I advocate it because it makes sense.

  27. All Comments from me are from the Heart in Hope It Motivates the People of The U.S.A. to Really Push for a GOOD HEALTH SYSTEM. Sorry to hear all of these problems & to an Australian it’s UNFORGIVABLE ! …The U.S.A. is Presented / Sold to the rest of the World as ” The  Land Of The Free ” but it seems to Me it Sees It’s Role to be, Protecting Big Business (For The Few) by Inflicting PAIN & SUFFERING On The Masses ! I am 62 & have a many Health Issues. Over the Years I have had 4 Surgical Operations for a Total Out Of Pocket Expense of $00:00, Zero ! These have been Covered by Taxes Paid Since the Inception of  Our ” Medibank ” National Health Care System in …1975.  (Renamed ”Medicare ” in 1984.) We have an Options of 100% Public Hospital Cover or Private Hospital Cover of 85%. (The Private Cover Is Always More than Patients Expect as the Private Hospitals Send Bills After The Operations for All Their Hidden Costs & Higher Charges than the Scheduled Fees Covered by ” Medicare ” … Sounds Familiar ?)  ” Medicare  ”  Is  Structured  also to offer Private Insurance in Competition with the Commercial Insurance Companies.  We  also have included, FREE VISITS TO OUR OWN DOCTOR (G.P.) & Free Hospital Out Patient Care & A SYSTEM TO REDUCE THE COST OF MEDICATIONS….IMPORTANT NOTE – Should Your Commercial Insurance Companies Get Their Hands On The Running Of Your Future System, I Doubt That You Will Be ANY BETTER OFF ! For those that Oppose Such a System I’d Say ”  Get Some Common Sense & Compassion For Your Fellow Man & Join The Majority Of Advanced Countries In The World. Leave Your Cries Of  ” Commies !” Behind & GROW UP…And Good LUCK.    

  28. In America , Money is more important then life , look around at all the wars the U.S.A has started , Human life in America is really Worthless ask any insurance company and its C.E.O .

    1.  This is really the best summary. Maintaining the MIC is more important to the US than the well being of it’s citizens… and the fact that so many of it’s citizens have been duped into oiling the gears of this machine is truly heartbreaking.

  29. This is pretty scary and I wish everyone in the UK realised how lucky we are and how valuable the NHS is (even if it is spiralling into decay). Problem with the US is the amount of money spent on the military and same with most countries. Even a quarter of that money would be better spent on a free or heavily subsidised health care system.

  30. Good Lord!? 6o grand?

    Was this for just a Thyroidectomy? 

    My wife very recently had a partial thyroid removed due to an enlarged reoccurring cyst they feared may be cancerous.*

    We live in Australia and of course have universal health coverage. (we do choose to also pay for private insurance in addition to this universal coverage. The private cover we pay for covers me, my wife and three kids for about A$190 per month)

    The totals cost for her surgery to have part of thyroid removed was roughly $800 out of pocket all up.

    Most of that $800 went to cover the specific specialist we choose to use.  Had we not had private cover we may have had to wait a little longer for the surgery and may not have been able to use that specific specialist, But in that case it would have cost us $0 for the surgery.

    Barely a day goes by where my wife and I do not thank our lucky stars that we live in a country with they type of Health coverage we have (not that our health system doesn’t have its problems, but we would never trade it for the US system, that is for sure.)  We and our kids have a few various health issues, if we lived in the US i fear that many of these issues would, by necessity, go untreated.


    *post surgery biopsy on the removed tumour showed it to be benign thankfully.

    1.  Your private insurance for 4 costs less that adding one person to my employee-sponsored policy. 

  31. Unfortunately it health insurance is not what it used to be (so don’t think it will be any less if you are insured).  Deductibles are getting higher as well as premiums and now it barely pays for what it once did.  More and more doctors are not even accepting health insurance…at least the ones that have been in practice for a while.  There are simple solutions congress can take but are not, which is why “Healthcare for Less” and “101 Health Insurance Tips” have been my “bibles” per say over the past few years……maybe if we got rid of the middle man (i.e. insurance companies), as well as the frivolous law suites (ambulance chasers), there might finally be some balance…..

  32. Flu, Septic Shock, Organ Failure, Emergency Paracardectomy. Now End-Stage Sarcoidosis with one half of one lung functioning, removal of two pounds of necrotic tissue from lung and back – Cha Freaking Ching!! I know you know all too well this painful shock illustrated above.
    I have to make sure I once again yell out to the world the wonderful, beautiful folks of MacUpdate, and particularly Joel who raised a very large amount of money for my medical expenses. They literally saved my wife Theresa and I from losing our home.I literally shudder when I think of where we would be if not for the love and action of others.I pray Laura has a big a support group as I did. And for you, too Xeni.

  33. I’ve had a bankruptcy due to medical bills, myself.  In FL, you can keep your homestead (of any value) continuing mortgage payments, if you choose.  You can retain personal assets valued at $1000 or less (garage sale prices).  You can retain a vehicle valued at $1000 or less, or continue paying on a current auto loan.  All other debts, with the exception of student loans (and, maybe, taxes?) will be discharged.  It sucks.   I’d never been late on a bill in my life, had near perfect credit, and a week in the hospital wrecked me.  This happened, btw, one week from my employers health insurance kicking in.  Only 3 years to go until it comes off the credit report, yay! 

  34. What an awful backward country America is.   Still can’t believe you can’t get free health care and that people are actively trying to stop that ever happening. So lucky not to be American.

  35. Things like this make my paranoid side wonder if the Canadian healthcare lobby is pushing to keep the US machine broken, just so they’ve always got something to threaten us with. “Don’t vote for X, he’ll bring in American-style healthcare!” is just about the worst accusation that can be thrown at a Canadian politician. That’s how bad it is — the US healthcare industry is a bogieman, the sort of monster you use to scare disobedient children.

  36. I owe over $10,000 because I had an ovarian cyst rupture. I stayed in the hospital for 6 days.  They did 2 ultrasounds and gave me an IV for antibiotics.  I didn’t even have surgery, and I only actually saw the doctor twice, for about 7 minutes each. Yup. $10,000. 

    I also received a bill for $470 because I went to the ER for severe conjunctivitis. Yeah, that’s Pink Eye. They gave me a bottle of eye drops.

    My options? I stopped opening medical bills.

  37. Yikes. Reading this reminds me to be thankful for having been born in Scotland where medical care is free at the point of care. Sure we give the NHS a hard time and complain about taxes but I’m glad to live where quality healthcare is not the preserve of the rich.

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