“You are now authorizing this medical center to charge to your account the total of $1,297.43. Say ‘yes’ to complete this transaction,” chirped the customer service rep oh-so politely.
“Yes.” I croaked.
One medical bill down. Two to go.
Fifteen minutes later I had authorized two more transactions and watched as nearly $2000 slipped past the guards outside my bank account and disappeared into never-never-land – the place where all medical bill payments go. This is the place where hospitals have obscure billing practices and before you know it they’ve charged you the cost of two trips to Europe for something as inconsequential as a 5 minute neck ultrasound.
By the way, I called the doctor again last week because I wanted the precise reading of the report from the radiologist who read my neck ultrasound from January. I found a lump in my neck back in November and brought it to the attention of my doctor at an appointment we had later in the month. She proclaimed that I needed a neck ultrasound and now here we are!
They gave me a thyroid ultrasound, realized that the lump wasn’t on my thyroid, proclaimed my thyroid healthy, and moved on with their lives.
But the lump is still there. And honestly it feels like it’s fused with my esophagus. The doctor suggested a CAT scan. In my head I’m thinking…”If they charged me $1300 for a 5 minute ultrasound then HOW MUCH are they gonna charge for a CAT scan???” I haven’t had company-provided health insurance since leaving my corporate legal job, so for now my only coverage is through a health sharing plan, which happens to have a $5500 “annual household portion” aka “deductible” which I haven’t met yet.
These are the kinds of decisions that I hate about adult life. I don’t know if I am being unwise by waiting this lump-thing out. Am I being a hypochondriac? Maybe the lump has been there for years? Is it cancer? But the thought of paying for a CAT scan sounds awful. Especially when I really want to get back into physical therapy. And I need to go to the dentist since I cracked a tooth. And they still haven’t found my lab report for my last test for Barrett’s Esophagus, which means that another endoscopy is the only way to know for sure whether they found any changing cells 4 years ago.
Side note: For the longest time I have been taking Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) as treatment for GERD. The short version of the science is that PPI’s shut down the pumps in the stomach that output stomach acid. The logic is: Less acid = Less pain and a reduced chance of Barrett’s Esophagus. But new research is showing that usage of PPI’s for longer than a year actually increases your chances of Barrett’s. Not only that but they are also showing they’ve been linked to other chronic conditions and mineral deficiencies. Yaaaay meeee.
The solutions to this money problem is definitely get a higher paying job. I’m working on that. I am. I’m making as many connections as possible. And trying to set up meetings. And sending out resumes to anyone who will read them. For now, though, this job is what I’ve got.
And I’m grateful for it.
As I watched almost $2000 leave my miserly clutches, I released a few choice invectives, and became instantly sulky. I was sulky because I had to pay an inordinate amount of money because of some insane healthcare system we have in the US where unhealthy people get punished on top of their sicknesses. I was sulky because I had to use my hard-earned savings on on a medical diagnostic that told me nothing except that I needed to spend more money on another medical diagnostic.
What a waste of hard-earned cash, I thought.
But now after a come-to-Jesus meeting I am now in the full grasp of gratitude. And happy Saturday to me because I found $43 extra dollars in my budget for this paycheck and now I’m sitting in a sunny cafe with a masala latte by my side. The latte is $4.10 of heaven, and this cafe has been one of the best treatments for this blue haze I’ve been living in.
Yeah, it hurt to seemingly waste all of that cash on medical bills, but then it hit me what a blessing it was that I had the ability to hand over that much cash instantly. I didn’t even need to open a payment plan or pay the balance via credit. I had the means to pay what I owed in cash and that’s something to be grateful for in and of itself.
As I type I’m sitting next to a couple – one from Russia the other from maybe Brazil (my guess, I only exchanged a few sentences with them). I live in a refugee city so we have diversity from hundreds of countries. We’re sitting close, at the bar in front of the cafe, just enjoying the sunshine. And they’re talking about jobs and education. About work visas and green cards. About getting jobs offers but worrying about family in their home country. About poverty back home. About the possibility of having to leave school and jobs that they love. About the uncertainty of their future.
At the end of a thought the girl said, “But it’s hard to feel sorry for myself. When all things are considered.”
Despite the circumstances, we all have so much to be grateful for.
Enjoy your day, my loves. I’m off to enjoy the library and a research conference!