Scary... September 8, 2007 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Can I just say this question rocked me to sleep. But it also made me think about what I would do in this situation
posted by ShawnString to MetaFilter-Related at 5:03 AM (23 comments total)

posted by jacalata at 5:10 AM on September 8, 2007

If by "rocked" you meant "depressed me to such a great extent to be reminded of how fucked up healthcare is in the states" then I agree completely.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:26 AM on September 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

We ended up getting a bus-limo for $600 that has two beds in it. I can't believe they did it for so little

It's odd that you almost have to go outside of the healthcare system entirely to find any compassion whatsoever. That may or may not have been the driver there, but it is typically the case that you can often get a break on pricing for this sort of thing when you tell people your story than what you will get from anyone related to the healthcare system.

You want depressing, though?

I recently visited some old friends in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. While there, I met a friend of a friend, nice guy, seemed pretty cool, but had a bit of sadness about him. It was hard to put my finger on it, just something hanging in the air around him.

Later, when I asked my friend about it, he told me that his friend has lost his (38 year old) wife to lymphoma about six months prior. To make matters worse, her year plus long treatment had cost close to half a million dollars, of which their insurance company only covered a bit less than $100k.

He has been trying to negotiate the amount down, or else declare bankruptcy, but has been unsuccessful in both. The insurance company will not budge and the court tells him that he makes too much money to get out of the debt. So, alone for the first time in six-seven years, grief stricken, looks like's going to be on the payment plan for the next thirty years, and can pretty much forget about buying a house during this time.

I'm hopeful that he can find a way out of this mess, but it doesn't sound good at all.
posted by psmealey at 6:22 AM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

psmealey, it's not all that grim. it's a catastrophic medical debt. he likely won't be denied a mortgage because of it if other aspects of his finances are positive. especially if he makes regular, if small, good faith payments on it.
posted by quonsar at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2007

I was in a similar situation once -- bad accident, far from home -- but was (barely and OMG luckily) able to fly home. I have the same sort of amazed "wow, I have to get home on my own dime?!" response and have bee reading that thread closely since it was posted. I'm so relieved they found a decent solution.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:17 AM on September 8, 2007

Yeah, that question left me way depressed last night. I'm glad there was a relatively inexpensive resolution.
posted by quin at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2007

Yeah, people don't look at medical debt the way they do other debt.

When the guy is up to it have him have a friendly chat with a realtor, who without obligation can tell him where he stands once he's interested in buying.
posted by konolia at 11:02 AM on September 8, 2007

If by "rocked" you meant "depressed me to such a great extent to be reminded of how fucked up healthcare is in the states" then I agree completely.

Really? Uninsured people choose to spend their savings on a vacation rather than health insurance, and "healthcare in the states" is "fucked up"?
posted by Kwantsar at 2:43 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes, Kwantsar, even uninsured people deserve a vacation just like the rest of us, and healthcare in the 'States is fucked up. What's your point?
posted by tehloki at 4:41 PM on September 8, 2007

Uninsured people choose to spend their savings on a vacation rather than health insurance

From what it looks like they took a four hour drive for vacation and nearly wound up killed in the process. A month of health care for two adults in the US hovers around $800-1000. A vacation to California from Vegas is probably a few hundred. Many MeFites with dodgy insurance situations are probably thinking this could be them next time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on September 8, 2007

Kwantsar's right. These people were just asking for trouble. Why didn't they get one of those Xtreme! plans insurers hawk at young working poor. You know those ones with the totally awesome co-pays and hard core radical exemptions for almost any conceivable medical problem. To the MAX! The free market solves every problem, you see.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:02 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Something about that post stuck out to me immediately. It was this:

My brother and his wife were in a near fatal car accident in California while on vacation...

It was the other drivers fault, he died at the scene.

If the other driver died, doesn't that make it a fatal accident?
posted by !Jim at 6:19 PM on September 8, 2007

well either your quibbling or not reading it correctly, the "near fatal" part clearly refers to the brother and wife, not so much the other sod. It may not be a technically perfect statement but the meaning was clear enough.

Medical costs nowadays are just crazy crazy, I had a very painful kidney stone removed a few months back, $18,000 bucks.
posted by edgeways at 7:38 PM on September 8, 2007

I have been insured all of my life. First my mother paid for it, when I started to make money I continued the payments. I agree that it is stupid to not have insurance when you know how expensive medical care can be.

That does not mean the situation is not fucked up in the USA. For those that did not watch Sicko:

A few years ago in Mexico I had a minor surgery. It started in the emergency room of a pretty good hospital. I slept in the hospital for one night on IV painkillers, was on oral painkillers for a week, on antibiotics for 6. Had 4 follow up visits. Total cost: 700 USD.

A few months ago I went to the hospital in the US for abdominal pain. Was diagnosed as kidney stone. Spent 4 hours in the hospital, got one dose of IV painkillers, and 3 bags of saline. Got sent home. Total cost: 5,000 USD.

So far, my life in the US is great. My biggest fears are:
1. To get caught in some stupid bureaucratic bullshit that would get me deported.
2. To get caught in some stupid legal bullshit and get deported.
3. To get sick beyond what my insurance covers, and have to go back to Mexico, where I can afford being sick.

Violence and terrorism do not make the top 100.
posted by Dataphage at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2007

They both were covered by $150,000 a piece medical, and the other driver had $50,000 per person medical coverage.

Holy smokes, that's insane. In BC we have a mandatory, publicly-owned insurance corporation that provides the basic, core insurance:
Third-Party Legal Liability
Accident Benefits
Underinsured Motorist Protection
Protection Against Hit-and-Run and Uninsured Motorists
Inverse Liability Coverage
It's the UMP that's the life-saver: Underinsured Motorist Protection. If the other driver doesn't have adequate insurance, ICBC covers for a minimum of $1 Million, and strongly encourages everyone to pony up an extra few bucks to double it.

Everyone should have insurance against "the other guy" not having enough insurance.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Er, the purchasing of their basic insurance package is what's mandatory in owning a car in BC.

Furthermore, one is covered for all of Canada and the USA, including Hawaii. And ICBC invests heavily into education and hazard reduction/infrastructure development. Not to mention that they don't discriminate against age or sex.

Plus they use a sliding scale that rewards everyone who drives well (I get a 40% discount plus a free at-fault).

ICBC's rates are not much different from those anywhere else in Canada. Yet they are extremely profitable.

I believe they fit in that "jumbo shrimp" category of things that can't be, but are. It's a government corporation that's very competent. [blinks] Wow.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:08 PM on September 8, 2007

Five Fresh Fish, I'm pretty sure that ICBC doesn't cover you for return via ambulance. When I was doing work for a client that provides travel insurance, I was told that neither ICBC nor MSP cover you for return to your home if you get into an accident and need to return via ambulance.
posted by acoutu at 10:42 PM on September 8, 2007


Website's a mess, but this is the confederation of activists that's working on un-fucking-up U.S. healthcare.
posted by univac at 10:47 PM on September 8, 2007

acoutu: I can't find anything on ICBC's website to support your claim. There is a page that says ambulance costs are covered, but it's part of a general list of things that one may claim.

My reaction wasn't to the ambulance claim, though: it was to the idea that the other driver had a piddling $50K liability coverage. That's reckless, that is.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2007

Found this on a lawyer's page, though:

I.C.B.C. is required to pay all reasonable expenses incurred by the insured as a result of the injury including medical, surgical, dental, hospital, ambulance, professional nursing services, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment, occupational therapy, speech therapy or for prosthesis or orthesis (Regs. S.88(1)).
I think it's very likely that ICBC does cover ambulance costs back home when such is necessary.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2007

I am consistently amazed that health care costs in the United States have sky rocketed out of control (we all have our stories of egregious costs, I won't add mine to the mix), yet there is still a rather large contingent in Washington that would still rather argue about gay marriage. Gay marriage won't be the undoing of this great civilization. Catastrophically high health care bills will.
posted by msali at 1:45 PM on September 9, 2007

I am consistently amazed that health care costs in the United States have sky rocketed out of control

Likewise, but why is this happening? With insurance costs increasing 15% year over year (I am a small biz owner so I see it directly), and out of pockets, deductibles and co-pays increasing year over year, it seems much of the increase is being borne not by insurer but the insured. I would have thought that excess on the part of the insurance companies would be driving this inflationary state, but because they seem to be covering their own asses by increasing the premiums and denying claims, that doesn't seem to be what's happening. What is to account for it?
posted by psmealey at 2:12 PM on September 9, 2007

What is to account for it?

First of all, it's a for-profit system making an awful lot of profit.
So in other countries, people pay the cost of their healthcare. In the USA, people are paying whatever it takes to line shareholder pockets, and only a small part of that money is actually buying them any healthcare.

Secondly, it's a runaway system - as the price goes up, many people can't afford to pay, so they don't pay (they check in to a hospital under a false name, for example). So the hospital has to pad everyone's bill to cover the costs of all the healthcare they provide that they never get paid for.

Thirdly, it's a double runaway system - as the price goes up, people can't afford preventative healthcare, which often costs thousands of times less than the cost of treating the nasty condition that results (and then needs admission at an ER under a false name). So the price of healthcare rises again because the money is going into vast fleets of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff, instead of just having people mop up small oil-slicks at the top before anyone slips.

These, and a host of other similar runaway feedback loops create a system so stunningly stupid and broken that I doubt a single human could manage to deliberately design anything so incredibly insane if they specifically set out to do so.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:40 AM on September 10, 2007

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