With the inception of Obamacare, healthcare is on everyone's mind. Those who are happy with their healthcare probably don't want to change it, but the problem is you may not even know the problems with your insurer until it is put to the test. A 65-year-old man in Arizona, Scott Richardson, thought he was well-covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, until he passed out in his bathroom and awoke with a $150,000 hospital bill that just wouldn't go away.
Richardson spent years faithfully paying premiums, but when he needed it most, he says his insurer abandoned him -- all because the ambulance that carried him unconscious away from his home after he suffered a fall and hit his head on his bathroom floor brought him to the nearest hospital, the Mayo Clinic. Little did he know that that hospital isn't in his insurer's network. Pretty crazy considering that his insurer is a large one and that is a large hospital.
It turned out that Richardson had a bleeding ulcer, which led to anemia and him passing out. He remained in the hospital for 12 days, all the while unaware that his insurance company had no plans to foot the bill. His wife, who remained with him for two weeks in ICU, was told that even though the hospital was out-of-network, he was covered because of a federal law that makes it illegal for hospitals not to treat patients who don't have insurance (part of why Obamacare is important -- people say they want the freedom not to have insurance until they hurt themselves and go to the hospital, which then passes along the bill to the taxpayers).
Eventually, Richardson was transferred to an in-network hospital, but by then he had an enormous bill of $120,000. He was told by the hospital to take it up with his insurer.
Blue Cross didn't want to pay the entire thing, though they eventually gave him a discount of 20 percent. Still, not too many people have $96,000 lying around -- and if they do, there goes their whole life savings.
Richardson says that Blue Cross said they'd never heard of this federal law that would cover his bills -- and indeed the law doesn't force insurers to pay. This means a collection agency could have come after him if he didn't pay up himself. "It might have been easier if you did not have insurance," Richard told AZCentral.com.
Luckily for Richardson, one of his kids worked for a local TV station, who began following the story. When it called Blue Cross for comment, the bill suddenly disappeared. "What does the average person do?" Richardson rightly wonders.
Good question. You can look up all the hospitals in your area to see which ones take your insurance -- but if you are unconscious when the ambulance comes to get you, good luck communicating where you want to go. Plus, lots of ambulances will take you to the nearest one anyway.
The best course of action just seems to be to fight, fight, fight with your insurance company -- but, really, who wants to do that when they are sick or recovering from something serious? It's hard enough just to get back to school, work, or caring for your kids.
Have you ever had a problem with your insurance?
Image via Ravensong75/Flickr