Monday, January 18, 2016

NOT QUITE FIRST CLASS


I really could have planned better for my retirement.  I had a really good paying job but my love for animals drained me financially. As my previous post about Ratty explained. my being unable to pass up a scrawny dog on the side of the road was very expensive but oh so rewarding. I don't regret one penny I spent on the over 200 stray dogs I rebuilt and found homes for during my prime earning years.

Had my health stayed excellent that extravagance would not be a topic for a post but a long bout with cancer and now heart problems have really made me realize I could have done a bit better providing for my golden years.

When my heart troubles were diagnosed last June I went in to a stunned silence as the hospital admission clerk stated how much my share of the pacemaker would be after Medicare paid. Understanding my lack of response, she kindly suggested I get some forms when I came in to see if I were eligible for hospital financial assistance. I had no idea what difference that would make but I did as she asked.

I had to fill out a long questionnaire plus provide my bank statements for the past 3 months and was told I had 10 days to get it back into the office.  Then they took me in to surgery.

I was home for about 3 weeks when I got a letter saying I qualified for 100% assistance from the hospital and that it was good for a year. In other words, while I still had to pay for the various doctors, my hospital share was zero.  I had only hoped for maybe 10% but I guess I am poorer than I thought. That was a bit of a shock but a strangely nice one.

Then recently I had to have the stent put in at the same hospital. Now that is an over night surgery also. I was Ok with that for this is a really nice hospital and they make you as comfortable as possible. The nurses are excellent.

After surgery when I became ungroggy, I realized I was in the recovery room as before.  It was then I learned I was not going to a regular room after recovery but was going to stay in this bare bones room over night.

My young friend Julie who was waiting for me to gather my wits had a quizzical look on her face.  Her dad had recently had a stent implanted and he had been sent to a private room afterwards like I had with my pacemaker.

Let me say here that Julie was invaluable during my illness. Having a friend who stands by you and takes care of the nagging details of hospital stays like transportation and pet care, makes even scary stuff not so bad. Thank you ever so much Julie.

The bed was narrower than a normal one, the controls only partially worked and the sheets could not be tucked in. They just lay on the bed to tangle up my feet. What food I got was ice cold and the only toilet was about 50 feet away on the other side of the nurse's area. My TV was an airplane model that swung out from the wall and the picture quality was un-watchable.  Thank goodness for Kindle. I thank my sister Jan every time I use that delightful gadget.

My nursing care was splendid and it really was only for overnight. Hey, I was alive and cared for if not particularly comfortable.  But as you know me--there is humor to be found everywhere.

It was in the middle of the night when I unplugged my monitors, grabbed my IV pole, pinched my peek a boo hospital gown securely to cover my bare bum and shuffled across the nurses area for a toilet visit. Half way across the room I got the giggles at the image I must have presented as it dawned on me, "Patti me girl, you are definitely not traveling first class."  This wasn't even coach. Is there something lower than coach that is still inside the plane?:))

For those of you who resent the folks who do not pay the same as you do for hospital services, rest assured that the reduced cost ride is a bumpy, uncomfortable one. We do get what we pay for. Hope that helps.

However, also realize that hospitals will grant assistance if you don't have insurance out your kazoo and are barely above the poverty scale but you have to apply for it. Also know, you will get good medical care on the reduced rate but the fringe benefits and comforts are zilch.  I was and am grateful for the medical treatment I recieved and the cost. Just hope I don't have any long stays in my future.

If you have a hospital stays coming up and are not a fiend for comfort--- ask. Hospitals will work with you.  Better yet, stay healthy.

57 comments :

  1. I'm just glad you're still here and kicking with your humor intact, Patti. I miss you when you're not around. And congratulations on being proactive. You're home now, right? :-)

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    1. Djan,
      Yep I am and thank you. I really missed not visiting much more than not blogging.

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  2. I hope I have no hospital stays coming up. Two small surgeries, but no overnighters. Thank you for sharing this info. Hope all is much better now...

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    1. turquoisemoon,
      Yes I am much better thank you and hope to continue on the up side.
      Hope your surgeries go well. Let us know.

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  3. Here in the Uk we have the NHS service, so no TV's, big noisy wards and not great food, but the staff are very caring and everything is free. Everyone in this country is entitled to free medical care, I just hope it stays that way. I hope you feel better soon!

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    1. Joey,
      I wondered how it worked in countries where health care is free. I can put up with a few inconveniences. Wish we would go that way here. It is astounding what hospitals charge.

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  4. Best to you, Patti. I'll be sending as many good vibes your way as I can.

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    1. Aww thanks Barry. The vibes arrived in welcome fashion.

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  5. I am really surprised that the hospital has such a low-end, low-tech room for patients. That really seems crazy. Makes me wonder if they were way over-crowded and you ended up in the last room available. It doesn't seem ethical or fair to put patients in rooms based on their ability to pay. It's not a fancy hotel, it's a hospital. Anyway... really glad you are on the other side of all of this and on the mend.

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    1. robin,
      Thank you. Good to be looking back. I really don't think they were over booked. I guess those who pay full freight would not be pleased nor consider it fair if those of us who couldn't pay got the same benefits. Since the medical care was excellent, I can't complain about the comforts. Now if they skimped on the medical care, I'd be first to march. Wish we would go to socialized medicine for all.

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  6. Dear Patti, Health care is big business and leaves room for negotiations (sometimes). A young friend recently had a scare after a mammogram. The mammogram was covered by law but afterward she got a letter saying it showed a shadow. The letter also absolved the hospital of any "mistake" with the original x-ray. It also said they weren't diagnosing her with cancer. However, when she talked with the hospital personnel, they said her insurance wouldn't cover a diagnostic mammogram which would cost nearly $400 and if the mammogram was suspect, she would need an ultrasound which cost over $1000. She was told she needed to pay in cash before both these procedures. I looked up the cost of both these procedure nation-wide, and they were a fraction of what our mountain hospital was charging. We were all frightened and wondering how to proceed. I advised her that maybe she should go through with the diagnostic mammogram but if she needed an ultrasound, she should ask for her records and drive to Denver to have it. Both Bob and I plus her family were all worried sick. Thankfully, the diagnostic mammogram showed no problems, and we were flooded with relief. However, the episode made me more aware of what hard-working people must go through every day if there is a medical problem that involves more than a DR's visit. I admit, I cynically wondered if the hospital has a certain number of mammograms that are "shadowed" so other procedures are ordered. But, that wouldn't be ethical, would it? Ah, well - don't get me started on medical care and insurance! My own heart attack and stent were fully covered by Medicare and my supplement. I got excellent care. However, I'm always on the alert for unnecessary procedures and prescriptions even if they are covered. Less is sometimes more when health is concerned.

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  7. Barb,
    First off, great news that your friend did not have cancer. That is such a scary diagnosis. I guess it would be wise if your are not in an emergency situation to hospital shop. Mine was also telling me what my share was over Medicare when when I went silent and she kindly suggested applying for financial assistance. I didn't even have to ask. Doesn't sound like your friend's hospital was even considering that option.

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  8. I'm so glad you were able to get at least some financial relief. I totally agree that we desperately need reform in hospital costs. Simply outrageous, especially the process of contracting for services so that you pay each person who was involved in your care separately. A fee for the surgeon, another for the anesthesiologist, another for the radiologist, etc. It's too bad the Affordable Care Act was not fully implemented by red states refusing to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion. Health care should not be a political football.

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  9. Dear Dear Patti....your experience is such a frightening thing. The costs of Healthcare in this country are insane---even with Insurance---Medicare and a Secondary----I hate to tell you what I pay for that....! I too wish we had the kind of system they have in The U.K.....My own personal plan is to NEVER go to a Hospital.....With my Lung Disease a Hospital is the worst place in the world for me....
    I'm glad you came through these ordeals 'In Tact', and got good care, my dear.....Be Well, dear Patti and hopefully, No More Hospitals for you!!!

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  10. I'm extremely interested in the subject of health care these days. Between us we spent a lot of 2015 dealing with it. Bob received a pacemaker in August. I'm blogging again at lrth.blogspot.com, 'Two Fixer-Uppers.' I started blogging again because I wanted to talk about health care. Come check out my blog. Today I posted about concierge medicine & our experience with it.

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  11. I am so glad I live in the UK. No worries here about the cost of healthcare so it is a pity that the US doesn't seem keen to provide a similar system.

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  12. So relieved that you are back blogging, I have missed you more than you know. Take care and prayers up for better health days ahead for you!

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  13. I'm that you had good care, help when you needed it and are recovering.

    I've seen ugly health care and good. Both are scary.

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  14. Oh the JOYS of getting OLD.... As you know, George and I do everything we can in order to stay healthy--but even that doesn't always help. We both have been lucky SO FAR not to have the need for expensive medical treatment. BUT--another area which has about cleaned us out financially is DENTAL CARE. We have no dental insurance with our Medicare and Supplement ---and both George and I have had or are having very expensive dental work done... I cannot believe that between the two of us, we could have bought a new car... CRAZY--and hard for those of us in retirement on fixed incomes... GADS--surprised I haven't heard more people complain about this problem...

    Glad you are okay --and I would have opted for the 'budget' plan rather than the 'high-priced' one also.....

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  15. Replies
    1. NCmountainwoman,
      Lets hope the ACA doesn't get pushed back should the wrong parties gain office. I totally agree about the football.
      Also agree about contracting for services. I have gotten bills from Dr.s I never saw. Usually they are small enough that you pay with out question but they do add up.

      Naomi,
      Thank you so much. I hope you never have to go either my friend. Sadly hospitals now days are often where you go to get sick.

      Linda,
      Welcome back to blogging. I will definitely put you back on my list.

      Fun60,
      I have no idea why we don't do as you and every other developed country is doing. Kudos to the Brits.

      Brighid,
      Thank you so much. I have missed visiting also but haven't seen any posts from you lately. Hope you get back in the saddle soon also.

      Gail,
      Thank you. You have been through it with your daughter. When you get down to it, good health determines every aspect of our lives. 1.5 Billion can't buy it.

      Betsy,
      You said a mouth full lady. Dentist are ridiculously high priced. I have passed up needed care simply because I couldn't afford it. I figure if I can smile and it doesn't show, pull it out. Slowly running out of teeth. Sure hope you and George are done with it now.

      Fran,
      Thank you, I am really getting there.

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  16. You are so funny. I love your sense of humor. This does make me kind of wonder how much of the expense of medical care goes to making a profit from our sense of entitlement to first class treatment in all things.

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    1. Olga
      I am so glad you appreciate my off beat sense of humor. Thank you. Think I'll be one of those who doesn't need pampering. Costs too much.

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  17. We are on Medicare, and we have supplemental insurance, which seems to be pretty good - although the costs are going up and the benefits are going down. My heart surgery was wildly expensive, but we got help from the hospital and a discount for prompt payment.

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    1. Judy,
      If you have the supplemental ins, usually the patients portion is not so painful. I know I was amazed that one stent, 40 minutes all told was billed to the insurance company for $32,000. Yikes. Your surgery must have been many times that.

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    2. Yes, indeed, it was. But we only had to pay a small portion of the total cost. We are very lucky.

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  18. I'm still back on 200 dogs rescued!!! That's astounding to me. what a caring person you are. Thankfully you got the care you needed too. We would not want to be without you.

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    1. Linda R,
      Thank you so much. I'm really glad to be here. It was close to 250 but that was over a 16 year period so it wasn't too bad.

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  19. You do add humor to a very serious subject. Truthfully, the cost of health care is no laughing matter. I nearly dropped over dead when I saw the bill for the ablation I had on my heart. I also was hospitalized overnight at the University hospital. I thought it was the bill for the pacemaker, but I haven't even seen that one yet. Thankfully, my bill , except for a small part, was covered by Medicare and my supplemental, and thank goodness I have been able to afford both. I know many who cannot buy supplemental insurance. Quite honestly, if I were single and living on my retirement, I would not be able to afford the supplemental or much of anything.

    I think the reason why they did not admit you was because of technicalities with your insurance, or lack thereof, when it comes to medicare. I don't understand it all. My husband was hospitalized three days because we thought he'd had a stroke a few years back. We were shocked to find out that he'd only been in for "observation" and never admitted. Again, it had to do with something about Medicare.

    The important thing is that you are doing better. Thank goodness you were able to get help. I remember doing that for some of my students who needed medical care and couldn't afford it. I found out how they could apply for aid and helped them apply. Take care Patti. Get strong and well. Hugs.

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    1. Sally,
      Think you are right. I saw "observation" on my ins papers also.
      Actually your pacemaker may be a lot less than the ablation. I know mine was just a third the price of the stent and from the same hospital. Lets hope we are both done.

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  20. I don't understant why 100% paid hospital fees would make it so obvious by short-sheets, no bathroom, smaller bed and all the rest. It feels like they must have had a meeting and asked what they could do to make it known that certain patients were receiving free hospital care. I'm sorry for that one night but I'm glad you are home.

    What a sweet friend you have in Julie. Often, good friends mean far more to us than we ever imagined.
    Love and best wishes for your swift total recovery.

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    1. Manzi,
      Thank you so much--I am getting there and yes, good friends are priceless. She still calls almost every day to check on me.
      I can see where my accommodations would cost the hospital less. These rooms were on the ground floor with all the surgery rooms. I'm sure the paying folks had no idea we were even there. Not pretty but the price was right.

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  21. Oh, Patti! You've been through so much health wise. I hope you have some respite now to just relax and enjoy every minute. I had to smile at your description of below-coach hospital accommodations, despite my horror... Your sense of humor is your greatest health asset!

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    1. Dr. Kathy,
      Thank you so much. Humor has pulled me out of unpleasant or scary situations with ease all my life. You are right, it is great medicine.

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  22. On the flip side, if you have excellent insurance they can find so many things wrong with you that you wonder if any of their diagnosis are real. Have you heard of the horrible Dr. Fata? Yikes! Glad you got the help you needed and got back to us.

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    1. Annie,
      Yikes, I hadn't thought of it that way but you are probably spot on.
      I looked up Fata. What a monster and with luck he will die in jail.

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  23. I am so happy to hear that everything went well and that you were well taken care of even though it didn't include too much comfort. I'm sending lots of healthy vibes to you, hoping that there are no more hospital stays in the future.
    In Germany most things are covered unless they are special, above average treatments. We do pay about 16 % of our yearly salary in health insurance costs. Reading your story though lets me gladly pay that amount of money, not having to worry if things will be covered when I need them. I wish it would work the same way for you.
    Have a wonderful Tuesday, Patti.
    Lots and lots of hugs to you,
    Beate

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    1. Beate,
      Thank you and yes, all is mostly well now.
      I so admire counties that have gone to universal health care. Care should not be just for the rich. There are many people here who just forgo needed care because they just can't afford it. The Affordable Healthcare Act has plugged a lot of the holes but there are still gaps.

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  24. Hi Patti, I'm glad to hear that you are home and I hope that you continue to improve. And I'm glad you have a good friend to help you when it's needed, too. As long as hubby is working, we have good health insurance that doesn't cost much of anything. It's scary to think what we'll be paying out of pocket once he retires. I hate going to the doctor because every time I mention a strange little ache or pain, they immediately want to run a battery of tests. Probably because they know I have good health insurance. Sound cynical, don't I? I was shocked to read about your stay in that bare-bones room. Every patient should be treated the same no matter what their income is. Again, I'm so glad you're home and doing well. Take care of yourself!

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    1. Cheryl,
      Like you, I never paid for insurance during my working years. Medicare is not expensive but boy those supplements. They were a shock and I had to pass them up. You are right about the better the insurance, the more tests.

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  25. I have been away to long...I'm now feeling sad. I did not all that you have been suffering through. Hang in there.

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    1. GQ
      Aww, don't be sad. Things could be much worse and I really am feeling quite lucky.
      Thank you.

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  26. What a relief that your hospital stay was covered, Patti. I'm so relieved and happy that you were able to keep your spirits up during your surgery and that you had such a good friend being your angel. I hope you're about 100% healed and recovered now or getting very close!

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    1. Kay,
      Thank you so much. I really am getting better and am grateful for all the medical advances we are privilege to.

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  27. What an experience! Your accommodations may not have been first class, but you, my dear, definitely are.

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    1. Mary lee,
      Aww, you say the nicest things. Thank you!!

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  28. On the other hand ... think what it would have been like before Medicare. I don't know how my parents did it.

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    1. Ginnie,
      I would not like to think of how hard it would be with out Medicare. Love it.

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  29. That was great that your hospital bill was paid and that you still had your sense of humor during the bumpy over-night stay sweet Patti. I could picture you going down the hall giggling as I read. We are om the same boat with the strays and like you I don't regret one cent I spent on them. Just think what it would have been like if we had been neighbors all those years we were taking in dogs. lol I would have loved being your neighbor and taking care of strays right along with you. Hugs

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    1. Maggie,
      Thank you so much. Just glad that part is over.
      We would have made quite the team wouldn't we? You also took in stray kids which is just amazing. I bow to you.

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  30. Oh, man, the challenges of getting older. Glad you are on the mend now, with your humor intact.

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  31. Found a blog you might enjoy.
    myminaturedonkeys.blogspot.com

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  32. Oops, found another blog you might enjoy.
    thedancingdonkey.blogspot.com

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  33. Interesting. I remain committed to the long sought seemingly unreachable goal (except in Canada) of a single payer health system for all....

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    1. Linda M,
      Thank you, I find laughing takes the sting out of most things.

      Linda,
      Thank you, I will check out both those sites. They sound interesting and cute.

      TB,
      You and me both. Canada, France and England can manage it,surely we can also.

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  34. I have seen the difference myself when someone I know had medicaid and was in the hospital having a baby. It is a world of difference. I am glad you are feeling better and also glad that you got the support you needed. It is a blessing when it all works out.

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