By Consumers For Quality Care, on July 17, 2019
As more and more Americans struggle to get the quality care that they need, media attention is also increasingly highlighting consumers’ experiences. Facing larger financial burdens from their care, consumers are turning to sites like GoFundMe for relief and sometimes even skipping out on care. Medical debt has become the largest cause of personal bankruptcy for Americans, with 530,000 families filing each year because of it. In a recent article, New York Magazine’s The Cut highlights stories of women across the country who are struggling with the health care system.
When we describe health care as “broken,” we mean that it’s inaccessible. Much of access has to do with money, but it also has to do with information — who can get it, and how it is (or isn’t) communicated. Below, we share stories from women who’ve experienced devastating (but not uncommon) encounters with the health-care system at every level: insurance companies, debt collectors, emergency rooms, and more.
Together, the women highlight the often confusing, complex, frustrating and expensive nature of the nation’s health care system.
Maya was diagnosed with a rare genetic connective tissue disorder at 8 years old. She says that in college, one emergency medical tests resulted in a $16,000 bill. In all, she says her mother was barely able to finish paying off her childhood medical bills before she passed away.
Another woman, Sara, described fighting her insurance company for nine months to get her routine IUD-insertion covered. The procedure should have been completely covered because her employer’s plan was ACA-compliant.
All the while, I hadn’t paid the bill, because I knew the charge was incorrect. Since my doctor worked for the same medical system I did, I ended up receiving a debt-collection notification from my own employer. After nine months of battle with the insurance company, and the involvement of my employer’s benefits department, the charge was finally cleared. I was an expert on this topic and I had that difficult of a time getting the coverage I was entitled to by law. There is no way other folks would know to do what I did — or have the patience for it.
Jenna recounts how she was contacted by a debt-collection agency over a bill for anesthesia that she never received. She says that she turned down the anesthesia, knowing it was not covered by her insurance and that she would not be able to afford it on her own. However, the anesthesiologist stayed in the room during her procedure “just in case” she changed her mind. This triggered a bill, despite Jenna receiving no care from the anesthesiologist.
She went to the physician’s office to dispute the charge and explain that she denied the anesthesia because she knew that she wouldn’t be able to pay for it.
Through my frustration and tears, the practice manager said, “Just pay us $300 and this will be settled.” As though after assessing me for ten minutes, she knew she could get 300 bucks out of me but never a grand, so she’d just take what she could get?”