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    Posted February 23, 2013 by
    Seattle, Washington
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Bitter pill: The cost of health care in the U.S.

    The price of health

    In 2011, I decided to get some bothersome varicose veins removed for good, as they were affecting my work as a baker. Healthy, married, and with good insurance, it took months of doctor visits, ultrasounds, and compression stockings (half-socks $110 each) to "prove" to the insurance company (not the hospital) this obviously dangerous medical issue deemed a medically necessary surgery.
    I was finally scheduled for surgery 9 months after my initial visit. Each leg was less than an hour of minor incisions and laparoscopic-guided cauterization. I recovered from these outpatient surgeries in a week or so.
    Eleven months later, I an haunted by collection agencies demanding nearly $28,000 I owe AFTER what the insurance company paid. Bakers don't make much, and in addition to student loans and credit card debt (each less than half this medical cost), I am filing Chapter 7 this week because there is no way to pay or even keep up with the medical bills.
    I am a good patient self-advocate, and have many friends in the healthcare industry. I am medically educated, and know the prices hospitals pay, and charge, for various items and procedures. I resist ambulance transport at all cost (literally). I actively ask nurses NOT to give that extra bag of saline (cost: about $3-$6, billed to me for $66 each) or for a less expensive medicine, but do I get a choice? No. It's a one-way discussion only. The patient, regardless of knowledge, is only told what to do, to take.
    My surgeon, while polite and professional, never saw me for more than 5-10 minutes per visit and I was billed about $220 each time.
    So at age 31, I am broke and bankrupt from this very necessary surgery--essential for saving my job, which, ironically, I lost from so much "sick time."
    Had I'd known then what I know now, I would have rather taken my chances with the health risks of the varicose veins than go through the consequences of being proactively healthy and losing everything.
    Say, anyone want to buy some gently worn, $110 socks? I could really use the money...
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