03 November 2004 by Published in: in my life No comments yet

You know what’s nightmarish? Navigating medical billing systems and insurance payments for someone who has died. You’d think, since people die all the time, that there’d be some semblance of a functional, relatively painless system in place to deal with this. Let me assure you that there is not. We (and by we I mean mostly Kurt, because I haven’t really the strength to deal with it without dissolving into tears) have been struggling with the medical bills that have arisen as a result of Simone’s death. Outside of the surreality of paying bills for services that were ultimately completely ineffectual, the insurance company and the hospital are using us a the rope in a tug of war about who should pay what and when. I get bill after bill telling us insurance has been denied. How wonderful to be reminded every time I check the mail of when and how my daughter died! There, at the grasp of a single impersonal piece of paper, is a flood of memories about the weak little child that cried almost every minute – until she no longer had the strength for it – on the last day of her life. Then the insurance company goes around and around with us about the fact that insurance coverage was terminated on the day that all these charges were billed (of fucking course it was, she DIED that day). All this punctuated by offensive and insensitive questions from drones like “Well was your child 18? Because insurance automatically lapses on her 18th birthday”. If only. What I would not give to have that problem. Add to that an hour or more of waiting on hold to talk to either the hospital billing OR the insurance company after you’ve wended your way through an impossibly complex automated phone system and it’s enough to wish one HAD actually woken up a bug. Someone explain to me how this system is efficient and saves us money. Is this really the best way we can do this? I find it horrifying and harrowing and inhumane.

The bills for all those procedures that did not save my child, by the way, are exorbitant. We could maybe afford to pay our part, if the behemoths could get together and decide what our part actually is, but the totals are staggering. She accrued more medical bills with greater totals in her last 24 hours than we did together during my pregnancy and her delivery. A lot of that is the crazy cost of emergency rooms, I suppose, but it’s still kind of terrifying. Additionally, we are all now – my entire family – among the ranks of the uninsured, which really makes this whole thing worse. For 90 days from Kurt’s first day, which is basically until next year, we haven’t the recourse of going to a doctor for anything routine. We might go only if the need were dire, and if the need were dire it would surely be a situation where exorbitant costs would be involved, costs that we wouldn’t be able to afford. And it’s not like we’re from the ranks of the working poor or the unemployed (well, technically I’m unemployed, but someone in our household is employed). We’re solidly run-of-the-mill, regular folk, middle class kind of people. Nice Catch-22: can’t afford to go to the doctor unless it’s an emergency, and if it’s an emergency can’t afford to pay what it would cost. Surely this is a better system than the one in countries with socialized medicine! I had the oddest sort of conversation with my mother-in-law who expressed dismay and concern that we were uninsured and then, within two seconds, proceeded to scorn the idea that universal health care might be good thing. I had to struggle not to say anything at all because she’s a good woman and she birthed and raised a wonderful one-of-a-kind guy and I really do love her but I was just stunned by the logical and emotional disconnect between her rapid fire affirmations. Whatever. I’m praying that we don’t, any of us, get sick. I already have more hospital bills than I know what to do with.


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