DH = Dear Husband
Our uncertain American medical costs
“We’ve sent a request for medical records to your husband’s physician to rule out the possibility of a pre-existing condition.” That’s what I was told two days ago when I phoned my work insurance company.
It’s been almost two full months since DH had his emergency visit to a hospital in the U.S. – and the numbers keep getting scarier. First, there was the $2,500 deposit that he had to pay up front. After a couple of weeks, we received an itemized receipt amounting to $6, 300. About a week ago, I received a call from a poor woman whose job it was to inform me that the bill for the emergency physician was being sent. I call her “poor” because although I am generally very polite with front-line people who bear unwelcome news – they aren’t the ones making the decisions – I temporarily lost my filter, and I’m pretty sure she felt the full force of my shock and outrage. “Is $6,000 not enough for you?!” I quickly got a grip and behaved myself as she calmly explained the difference between the bill for the hospital and the bill for the attending physician. Again, I found myself thinking, How do Americans manage? Ramsey has advice in his book Total Money Makeover regarding health insurance. I merely skimmed through it since it doesn’t apply to Canadians, but I would encourage all Americans to act upon it.
Two weeks ago, I was told by this same insurance company that the reimbursement cheque for $2,500 would probably be sent out in about a week’s time. So something has changed. This new concern with a “pre-existing condition” raised my alarm. As the American election approaches, news coverage of the platforms espoused by the two contenders increases. To most Canadians, who are used to a medi-care system that covers almost everything, I think the term “pre-existing condition” has taken on shades of terror – a precursor to “We won’t help you. Fork over the money.”
“That makes me scared,” I told the representative from the insurance company, “because [DH] did have a gallbladder attack in May.” It wasn’t news to her since I had filled in the claim forms honestly. She gave me some reassurance with regards to the definition of a pre-existing condition, but clearly someone in the chain of command has chosen to pursue this possibility. DH and I have hashed over what the emergency doctor told him in May. Was his directive to have the gallbladder removed firm? Was it time-sensitive? Didn’t he say that DH should not have it removed before going camping in August since he wasn’t supposed to do any heavy lifting for four weeks after the surgery? Or was he really saying “Don’t camp” with that warning? He told DH not to eat fatty foods in the mean-time, so he didn’t. Does that count for something? We can’t know now. One way or another, sooner or later, this thing will be resolved. We have little control over the outcome.
So we’re on hold with regards to debt repayment. We have to be prepared to cough up about another $4,000 if the powers-that-be decide we can’t be covered for that emergency visit to the American hospital in July. It’s having an impact on our plans. For instance, in October, DH and I will be celebrating our anniversary. For the last two anniversaries, since DH’s franchise has proven to be successful, we have indulged in an overnight romantic get-away at the resort where we spent our honeymoon. Very lovely, very romantic – complete with dinner, breakfast, massages – and very expensive, coming in at about $800.00. This year, we’ll make a really nice meal and buy a bottle of wine. We’re also selling things. I remember reading Ramsey’s advice to have a garage sale, and thinking, We don’t have anything to sell. But we do. Only we’ve done it online. DH has already sold two musical instruments that have been lying around since our older daughters were in middle-school band. $300 right there. There is also a very spiffy desk that DH used to use in his office that is now disassembled and leaning up against the wall in our spare bedroom. And if we look around with “gazelle intensity”, I’m sure we’ll find there is more that we can sell.
I was a little off yesterday when I went in to work, and a colleague asked me what was up. I told her about the medical bill and our waiting game. “Well, first of all, is [DH] OK?” she asked. I said he was 100%. “Then that’s all that matters!” she said. Didn’t I feel like a shallow shmuck. She followed up with this piece of wisdom: “If a problem can be solved with money, it isn’t really a problem.” She’s allowed to do that since she’s older than I am. I thanked her, and I really have chosen to absorb this set-back with grace. We’re on hold, but we’re not off track.