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What Does Emergency Gall Bladder Surgery Cost (aka: health costs when unemployed or self insured or as an entrepreneur)

February 16th, 2013

A month ago, at this very minute (note: I started this post on Friday but took a very rare sick day during the post), I was laying in a hospital bed trying to “breathe through my nose.”   I never disliked breathing more than that day.

You can read the entire story here (I need to clean it up because I wrote it when I was on narcotics… it doesn’t read as well as it should).

The purpose of this post is to talk honestly about what you can expect to pay if you have an emergency that requires you to go to the E.R.

There were five or six vendors or service providers involved in this.  Below is what I was billed (approximations):

Hospital, including emergency room, operating room, recovery room: About $18,000

Operating surgeon: about $1,600

ER doctor: Bill amount: $888

Pathologist: To do what, I have no idea. Bill amount: $49

Anesthesiologist: Bill amount: $1,275.

Radiologist 1: Bill amount: $119.86.

Radiologist 2: Not sure if there was one, but was told there might be one.

Each of those are independent from one another, and no one would tell us what the bill might be, or even who to contact.  It was either make calls and figure it out or wait for the bill to come.

There is a reason to make the calls immediately.  Many medical vendors provide a discount for “self-pay,” which is the term you use if you don’t have insurance.

Why we don’t have insurance is for another post.  Trust me, we tried to get it (more than once), but the insurance industry is so corrupt it is disgusting.

Anyway, if you are self-pay there are two things that happen:

  1. 1. You get offered a discount – up to 50% off.  You can see the discount amounts below.
  2. 2. No one believes you will pay.  The government and media has done a masterful job creating an image of uninsured people (aka, self-pay) that if you are self-pay people think you are going to not pay.  Not true, but thanks to the gov’t and media, that’s a new stereotype to live under.

Here are the discounts we got:

Hospital, including emergency room, operating room, recovery room: About $18,000. They gave 50% off to self-pay if you pay within about 2 weeks.  That meant our bill would be about $9k.  We went in to talk about it, and when to pay, and the finance person lowered it another $1k (because much of the time billed was when I was in “recovery,” which didn’t really take the same resources as a bunch of people doding on me every minute.  Total bill: a little shy of $8k (for about 55% discount).

Operating surgeon: about $1,600. When I went in for the post-op checkup they said they would offer a 50% discount if paid THAT DAY or a 30% discount within (I don’t remember how many weeks).  We paid that day. I wish they could have given a little flexibility – perhaps 50% if paid in a week.  It wasn’t fun to pay that day, considering the payment to the hospital was made in the same week. Total bill: I think it was almost $800. Are you blown away that the person who controls the operation gets only $800 (less whatever his company takes in overhead)?  Crazy.

ER doctor: $888. I found their information and called them and learned they offer a 50% discount. I have to pay that by early March, which is about a 6 week timeframe.  Very thankful for this discount and the extra time. Total bill: $444. Nice savings :)

Pathologist: To do what, I have no idea. Bill amount: $49. They offered a 30% discount, which we were thankful for.  Ended up paying $34.

Anesthesiologist: Bill amount$1,275. I was highly disappointed in their discount, only 20%, to bring it down to about $1,000.

Radiologist 1: $119.86. 20% off put it down to (total bill) $95.89.  Not liking the small discount but the amount was so small that it was sixes.

Radiologist 2: Not sure if there was one, but was told there might be one.

The total out of pocket for this emergency surgery was about $10,375.

Are you ready for that capital outlay right now?

I wasn’t either.

Aside from being on insurance, what can you do to get ready?  I’m not talking about preventative because this could have been an ambulance ride from a car accident (and healthy eating usually doesn’t prevent that).

If you got a $10,000+ bill from the hospital, would you be in a world of (financial) pain?

You can prepare for medical emergencies.  I recommend:

1. Regular insurance

2. Accident insurance

3. Robust and growing savings

4. Knowing who you can tap into to get help from (family, etc.)

It’s a scary time without this $10k bill, but being able to do it can come from planning and preparation.  Start NOW!

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3 Responses to “What Does Emergency Gall Bladder Surgery Cost (aka: health costs when unemployed or self insured or as an entrepreneur)”

  1. Jason, I am SO glad to hear that physically you made it through the surgery successfully! You’ve been in my prayers since I saw your Facebook post.

    I really appreciate your detail in regards you the financial ordeal!
    There are many of us who are in a career search and either couldn’t afford COBRA or our COBRA benefits have long expired.
    Many are living on ‘a wing and a prayer’ in hope that we never have to go to the hospital.
    Your article will help to instill the realization of living without or with in-adequate insurance!
    Thank you!

  2. Jason Alba says:

    Thanks Jayne… by this summer it will all be a distant memory :p

    Cobra was ridiculously expensive for us, and really not an option. I hope that this article is an honest reality check for people.

  3. Donna says:

    thank you for your comments! I am also “self-pay”. The stigma of self-pay! argh! But everything is negotiable. I am self employed artist, that’s another stigma!

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