Saturday, February 26, 2011


When Scarlett was first diagnosed, one of our first questions was, "How much does this cost?"  We figure that, on the scale of medical expenses, infant brain surgery must be about as expensive as you can get.  Add on the long-term care and oncology services, as well as constant prescriptions and even the gas and bridge toll to get to the hospital, and we began to panic about how we would ever afford this.  

We learned quickly that NO ONE could ever afford it, and the medical establishments know this.  The prices are for the insurance company.  Yes, we have insurance, good insurance, and it covers nearly everything so far.  We have reasonable co-pays for hospital admissions, office visits and prescriptions, though they add up fast.  In addition, we have learned that there are many charitable foundations that are designed to help families like ours to cover some of the living expenses that arise during treatment.  For instance, we pay $5 in bridge toll every time we take Scarlett to Palo Alto for lab work, appointments or chemo.  We don't pay bridge toll to Oakland, but we do pay to park; $7.50 every day of every visit (that added up for the 27 days we were there in January).  Plus, we have to eat.

Even though we don't have to pay the full prices, we still receive all the "explanations of benefits" that tell us just how much we are being saved by having insurance.  These documents detail the cost of each procedure, supply and order that was done for Scarlett.  Having never had much experience with medical services, we had no idea how much the "necessities" cost.  A few of my favorites so far:
  • "Semi-private room" for 6 days: $125,095.90
  • Her first brain and spine MRI: $23,048.00 (she has had at least 2 more since then, and will have them every few months)
  • Biopsy surgery (which took less that two hours from start to finish): $39,288 for the surgery; $30,468 for the operating room; $5374 for the surgical supplies; total $75,130.00
  • One prescription: $2989.00
We find no purpose in panicking over the costs; we will find a way to pay for whatever she needs, and will never deny her care because of the cost, whether it is covered or not.  However, we laugh every time we see these numbers because it is ridiculous to expect normal people to be able to pay for this.  Even if we lose our insurance coverage due to me not working (very likely in the near future), she would be covered by various state insurance programs.

We are keeping a running total of the costs just to see what it comes to in the end.   This is not what we are being charged, but some insurance company somewhere is paying it.  It's another piece of her story, another part of the puzzle that is our life.

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