About a month ago I needed to get a CT-scan because multiple doctors have told me now that I need to have surgery to fix my horrible sinus cavities and the shape of the interior of my nose. Before I even scheduled the CT-scan with the imaging center, I called to find out how much it would cost. The imaging center told me that — of course — they could not tell me how much the CT-scan would cost because it would depend on my insurance coverage.
I called my health insurance company and I was told it would cost $472.69 for the CT-scan. That’s a lot to pay for some pictures of my own head, but I get that it’s a really cool camera so okay.
I got to the imaging center at 8 o’clock in the morning and when I was called to the registration desk the woman behind the counter asked if I wanted to pay the $472.69. I’m 100% certain that I made some sort of dad joke about how I had no desire at all to pay, and then I gave her my credit card and she charged it $472.69.
Three weeks later I received an itemized bill in the mail from the hospital for the CT-scan. It showed a charge for $844.00 for “pharmacy services” which, I assume, was because it was one of those CT-scans where they inject some weird chemical into your arm to make your blood glow in the pictures. Then there was the actual $2,148.60 charge for the CT Scan imaging itself. So a $2,992.60 bill. That was offset by a “discount” of $2,334.23 because, I assume, CT-scans were on sale last month. Subtract from that the $472.69 that I already paid, and I have a bill here for $185.68.
Wait. What? Why the hell do I have a bill here for anything? I called in advance to find out how much this was going to cost. I was told how much it was going to cost. I paid in advance what I was told it was going to cost. And now they’re telling me that I need to pay an additional $185.68 because… that’s how insurance works?
I called the billing department and was told that the $472.69 was only an “estimate” and it should have been explained to me that it was not the total bill. I countered with the fact that it was clearly not explained to me very well, otherwise I would not have been shocked to learn that I still owed someone money for something for which I’d already paid. And, also, $472.69 is an absurdly precise “estimate”. If you want to estimate something, you say, “It’s going to cost about four-hundred and fifty bucks.” You don’t say, “It’s going to cost about $472.69.” And why do you need to provide an “estimate” of how much a CT-scan costs? WTF is that about? Do they charge based on the size of your head? It’s a giant machine with a fancy camera run by a computer. My CT-scan could not have possibly cost any more or less than anyone else’s CT-scan. And even if it did, if you’re going to make an estimate that’s precise to the penny, you can’t then say you were off by almost $200 and ask me to pay that. It’s not my fault your estimate sucked.
I have said it a million times: The entire healthcare industrial complex in the United States is a festering swamp of incompetence and grift that makes Trump look like an honest man. The only people who aren’t completely screwed are the incredibly wealthy and the incredibly healthy.
PS: I’m on hold with the health insurance company and the voiceover is some seriously hardcore Handmaid’s Tale bullshit about how all men must have a true relationship with God in order to secure their health and the importance of prayer in our daily lives. Actual quote: “God made humans diurnal, or designed to function during the day. In challenging times, Americans have shown a remarkable commitment to spirituality…”