Posts Tagged ‘affordable care act’

I’m in Hawaii a few weeks back, the Big Island. First couple days are great, dining in Kona, a little boogie boarding, getting yelled at by the Safeway clerk for trying to buy a single bottle of Kona beer from one of the six packs*. But then Monday rolls around and I get this freaky-ass pain in the side of my chest, next to my heart, so I spend the rest of the week wondering if I’m on the verge of having a heart attack. But sometimes the pain goes away and I enjoy my vacation for awhile…until it comes back, but by then it’s dinner time and I’m downing a Mai Tai on an empty stomach.

Why didn’t I go to the emergency room or one of the scattered urgent care centers on the island? Because last time I did that (see my kidney stone post in the archives) I was out $4000, guilted into being grateful that it wasn’t the $16,000 billed to my insurance. Despite all the anxiety the chest pain caused (and the resulting symptoms that too much anxiety cause) I knew in my–ahem–heart that my breathing was fine and this was obviously the paranoid part of my brain throwing firecrackers at the rational part. Not to mention the symptoms were never actually getting worse; they were simply coming and going at various intensities no worse than, say, a four on a 1-10 scale. So I drank more alcohol than usual to calm the anxiety (not a recommended lifestyle remedy, but it works on vacation), determined to enjoy my vacation!

I got home, saw my doctor the next morning, so I’d only have to pay $30 office visit. I just saw him two weeks earlier for a checkup on some blood work, as I’ve got some high blood sugar and underactive thyroid needing monitoring. I was prescribed pravastatin for high cholesterol (95%+ vegan…go figure) and an upgraded dosage of levothyroxine for my alleged thyroid problem. The doc puts a stethoscope to my heart, determines my ticker is fine, says it’s probably a muscular/skeletal issue and to relax, so I saved $300-2000 bucks by not having this checked in Hawaii. Yay me.

But my chest is still aching, and the whole time I’ve been avoiding any mention of the…bathroom issue that causes bowel movements to turn into…liquid. I’ve crossed over 40 and I still can’t say diarrhea? WHAT’S GOING ON???

Someone smarter than me in these issues suggests looking up side effects to pravastatin and levothyroxine. And what do you know, chest pains, anxiety, skitters, and a bunch of other symptoms I’ve felt in the three weeks consuming these pills! Would have been nice if my doctor had connected the chest pain to the pills HE’D JUST PRESCRIBED, but hey, I don’t think discomfort counts as malpractice. It’s nice to nail down the answers.

This stuff along with the current REPUBLICAN shutdown** has gotten me doing more thinking about how to really deal with health care costs. Because regardless of Obamacare/AFA most of us know our health care system is still broken glass, a few of the pieces glues back together. I’ve spent years railing against insurance companies jacking up premiums yearly while footing me with huge portions of whatever bill I get. I’ve also put on boxing gloves against hospitals charging retarded (YES, retarded–mentally deficient) prices that cripple finances beyond reason. I get the basics of this madness. Hospitals make up these absurd costs, sucking excess cash from those who “can” pay to cover the costs of those who can’t, the insurance companies basically playing the same game on the surface, each passing the blame back and forth.

But the big question finally being addressed by the mainstream media is WHY health care is so expensive and the revelation that hospitals can charge wildly different fees for the same procedures. I’m making up numbers, but I’ve heard more than one source say something along the lines of one hospital billing $50,000 while another charges $20,000 for the same procedure. When we pitch single payer or universal health care those against it say that’s against capitalism and free market…

But is it really free market when I can’t find out how much a procedure costs before going to the hospital?

I only get to find out afterwards, when the bill has all ready been charged. Where can we go to price compare? I’ve found a few sites that have potential, but still speak in generalities. It would be cool if there were a Wikileaks-type of site where charge masters of various hospitals are posted. Some of that data has come out through some government databases, as this Huffpost article details. But how sweet would it be if there was a popular Wiki site where we could research prices by hospital, by insurance plan, etc.?

Get that kind of information out to the public then we’ll see some real competition in the market place. Might even get that Costco ER I’ve been dreaming about.

*Apparently I’m not allowed to do that in Kona, though my neighbor used to work at a Mill Valley Safeway and he said it’s cool, except they charge you more for the single bottle. But, man, the Kona clerk was PISSED when I did it. She started ranting about how the Japanese were the worst offenders of bottle separating. I guess therapy is more expensive in HI because there are fewer therapists because WHO CAN BE SO FREAKING MISERABLE AND ANGRY IN HAWAII???!

**Hey, the law passed. Why not let it go into effect and kick Democrats to the curb if it fails? Oh, because you’ve already been to our National Parks…


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