I was going through some papers after a recent move and came across an old Explanation of Benefits (EOB) for one of my hospital's visits. Mind you, I had seen hundreds of them over the 13 years of helping my late husband. But because I was in a reflective mood, I decided to really look at it and the implications. Outside of the normal shock of cost, I also reflected on how much I had spent out of pocket as well as the insurance company.
This thought process led me to remember this specific emergency hospital visit while attending my sister's college graduation in NY. When I became ill, I had to be taken to the ER via ambulance. All of my symptoms were intestinal. While taking my medical history I related that I had a history of spontaneous lung collapse. (Pneumothorax), of which the current problems were not at all similar. I had 33 pneumothoraxes and knew very well how they presented etc.
I was given blood pregnancy test, though I told them there was no way I could be pregnant. They ran many more tests, took x-rays of my back, did an EKG, and on and on. Hours later I was told that I needed a chest x-ray for my lungs. Eventually I was told they wanted to keep me for observation overnight and take another EKG, stress test and more chest x-rays again the next morning. I asked what the other test had shown and was told nothing, all was normal. I also asked why they think something could change between now and tomorrow morning. They could not give me an answer just that everything looked normal. So, I decided to check myself out of the hospital with all of the waiver’s and warnings that I could die. But they couldn’t tell me what I could die of or even what they were looking for etc.
When I received the final diagnosis at check out, I learned I had a stomach flu and was dehydrated. Mind you, no fluids were given to me at the hospital. I started drinking electrolyte fluids myself upon my discharge. The bill I received for that visit included test exposing me to needless radiation. The additional test the next day would have exacerbated my exposure. Additionally, what I most needed, fluids, weren’t given to me. They did see one thing that was to their advantage. I had excellent insurance. Unfortunately, good insurance like this could lead hospitals that are facing budget cuts or deficits to make money in other ways. This isn’t uncommon.
Being subjected to needless tests or more costly medications or procedures because they may return more in revenue may distract from you getting the best care. It can also cause you harm and or death as well as setting you up for financial obligations that you or your family may have to shoulder.
Just because you have good insurance doesn’t mean you can give the doctor free reign in decision making for your care. In fact, it may require you to be more diligent. Ask about the cost and other effective alternative treatment/options. Participating in your care and working with your treatment team means asking questions and clarifying the recommendations made and allow for making comparisons to alternative treatments. If you don’t ask questions you may be setting yourself up for sub-par treatment and financial hardship.
If you have any financial questions related to your myeloma care and treatment- let's talk. I am a free resource to all myeloma patients through the Myeloma Coach program. You can find/connect with me on the Myeloma Coach website at www.myelomacoach.org.
about the author
Diahanna is the Financial Program Manager for the HealthTree Foundation, specializing in financial help for multiple myeloma and AML patients. As a professional financial consultant and former caregiver of her husband who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Diahanna perfectly understands the financial issues facing myeloma patients.