Healthcare in America Is Broken

Health Insurance Fun

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.

CashThree 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.

<record scratch>

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.

A festering swamp of incompetence and grift

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…”

Post the first comment:

I'll never share your email address and it won't be published.

What Is This? is the personal weblog of me, David Vincent Gagne. I've been publishing here since 1999, which makes this one of the oldest continuously-updated websites on the Internet.

A few years ago I was trying to determine what cocktails I could make with the alcohol I had at home. I searched the App Store but couldn't find an app that would let me do that, so I built one.


You can read dozens of essays and articles and find hundreds of links to other sites with stories and information about Ernest Hemingway in The Hemingway Collection.