- Posted March 2, 2013 by
Madison, New Jersey
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Bitter pill: The cost of health care in the U.S.
Having a heart attack? Your insurance, please.
I was 55 and had always been in good health. But I also didn't want my last words to be, "Oh, it's probably nothing." I live about four miles from Morristown Hospital in Morristown, N.J., and decided to drive myself rather than wake my wife or call an ambulance. Yes, maybe a dumb decision but I made it to the hospital just fine, but with chest pains growing more intense. Surprisingly for a Friday night, there was no line so I walked up to the check-in clerk, said I was having chest pains, and wanted to see a doctor. Her response startled me: "Do you have insurance?
I said yes, thinking we could deal with it later. Instead, she asked to see it and was preparing to enter it into the system. As I fumbled for my wallet, I asked: "If I'm having a heart attack, do we really need to do this first?"
She looked positively stunned, even scared because, I'm sure, she knew it was her job to get the insurance info first -- but if I collapsed on the floor and died in front of her, well, that would have caused problems of there own.
After giving this some serious thought for several precious seconds -- at least they seemed precious to me because I didn't know if my life was hanging by a thread -- she reluctantly opted to get me to a doctor.
I can't tell you the cost, but I spend the night in the hospital as the doctors tried to ascertain the cause of my chest pain. It turns out the sack around my heart had become inflamed (I didn't even my heart was in a sack) and everything turned out all right in the end, and my insurance covered the tab. But I was struck that night by the priority that payment took over the question of life and potentially imminent death in the ER.