A Collection of Problems with the US Health Care System

Mother/Desktop Technician. Oregon. Statement 10195.

Categories: Patient Statements
Tagged as:

State:: Oregon

Occupation:: Desktop Technician

On January 2, 2011 my daughter was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a head on collision. The driver who caused the accident (icy conditions and speeding), was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the car that my daughter was traveling in only had superficial injuries, however, my daughter suffered many life threatening injuries. The list of her injuries:

  • Both ankles broken
  • Spiral fracture in left tibia
  • Bowel rupture (which required over half her colon removed)
  • L4 and L5 broken vertebrae
  • Gallbladder damaged and removed
  • 2 abdominal muscles shredded (which required removal)
  • Torn Aorta at the T10 Level, resulting in a stroke in her spine rendering her paralyzed from the T10 Level down (about belly button level)

She is actually very fortunate to be alive today, if her aorta had gone through another layer and her blood did not clot, she would have bled out in a matter of minutes. The accident happened within an hour of leaving to go back to school. She was brought back to the hospital, about a 35 minute ride from where the accident happened, and was sent to surgery almost immediately. She was not able to receive any medication at this time, because they did not know the extent of the damage. Hospital cost (approximate): $25,000.00. This was for the emergency room, staff and operating room. This did not cover the doctor costs or the anesthesiologist. Approximate cost: $5,000.00. Insurance information was gathered at some point, but since I was in shock at the time, I cannot recall when and if I gave this information or if my husband did.

About 4 hours after her initial surgery to repair her bowel, both she and I were life-flighted to a hospital about 300 miles north at a cost of $41,000. That was just the cost of the plane, not the ambulance to get us to the airport, not for the pilot of the plane and not for the two medical staff members who flew with us in case of any emergency.

As soon as we arrived at the hospital, my daughter was immediately put into a drug induced coma in order to help with her healing process. She had a breathing tube because of the medication she was receiving; she was not able to breathe on her own.

During the first night I was at the hospital, the most important question that was asked by me regarding my daughter, was not anything other than if she had any medical insurance? Car insurance? Did I know if the driver of the other vehicle had insurance? The last thing I wanted to discuss with anyone there was her health insurance – I wanted to discuss HER HEALTH. I want the reader to understand, it was still touch and go whether or not she was going to even survive the night and it felt the only care that the hospital had, was whether or not my daughter was going to be able to pay for her stay.

That evening, in the Intensive Care Unit, I began to get a list of doctor teams that would be responsible for my daughter who included a stroke team and a kidney dialysis team. It wasn’t until later that I would find out the reasons for these teams. Not only would my daughter not be able to walk again, but she may have had a stroke other than her spine. There was a small clot found in her brain, plus, because the body does strange things after immense trauma, she was not capable of filtering out potassium from her blood stream, so there was a concern, that if she could not start passing urine, that she would have to be put on dialysis. Fortunately, after about a week, it was determined that she did not need either team as her kidneys began to function correctly and the clot on her brain was from a possible older injury.

During her stay at the hospital, she had over 15 surgeries, one to remove her two shredded abdominal muscles, one to put rod stabilizers in her back, one to remove her gallbladder, one to repair her tibia, one to remove more of her colon and the rest were to clean out her wounds that could not be closed up due to contracting the C. Difficile virus, which caused her abdomen to swell.

After one week they finally took my daughter out of the drug induced coma. My daughter stayed at the hospital for one month, almost to the day. She received physical therapy maybe two times during her stay.

Hospital cost: $385,000.00

Various Doctor Costs (even for those doctors who never came to her room, but looked at her chart): $100,000.00

Physical Therapy Costs: $35,000.00 (again only for two visits and stayed only for an hour)

After the doctors finally felt that she was well enough to move locations, my daughter opted to be placed in a facility near the university that she was attending because there is no rehabilitation center where I live and the closest one was about 150 miles away which required me, as her parent to drive in treacherous conditions.

Cost to travel to rehabilitation hospital via Ambulance: $1100.00. This did include the driver and helper.

When we arrived at the rehabilitation hospital (RH), again, I was inundated with questions regarding her insurance coverage. Within three days it was determined that she was not strong enough to stay at there, so she would was moved to an acute care hospital (ACH). Again, the insurance question came up and I had to give forth the information. It appeared that her care was secondary to the question of the insurance coverage. My daughter stayed at ACH for 3 months at a cost of $19,000.00 a week. The cost was the same at RH, where she stayed for an additional 2.5 months. The total amount of her stay at Rehabilitation hospitals: 18 Weeks @ $19,000.00 = (approximately) $342,000.00. This did not include her doctor costs (but did include physical therapists and occupational therapist), which included two doctors for her care: Approximate cost: $51,000.00.

Soon we found out the minimum cost of being paralyzed and the equipment she would need to survive on a daily basis.

  • Wheelchair and accessories $6,400.00 (mostly covered by insurance and some items not needed, but foist upon her)
  • Shower chair: $400.00 (covered by insurance)
  • Bladder/Bowel supplies: $120.00 (one month supply covered by insurance)
  • Wheelchair ramp: $1,856.00 (NOT covered by insurance although she couldn’t get into her house without it).
  • Bone Regenerator: $300.00 (covered mostly by insurance, used two times)
  • Higher Toilet: $250.00 (not covered by insurance)
  • Modifications to her house: $5,000.00 (not covered by insurance)
  • Service Dog and training: $1,000.00(training done by family and volunteers of the community, not covered by insurance)
  • New Mattress to avoid bed sores: $3000.00 (50% covered by insurance)
  • Car Modifications: $900.00(not covered by insurance)
  • Accessible car: $25,000.00 (not covered by insurance)
  • Handcycle: $6,000.00 (NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE)
  • Dental Work: $1,500.00 (covered by insurance)

After my daughter finished her stint with the Rehab Hospital it was found that the rods in her back had broken. She needed to have surgery on her back again to fuse her spine, since the initial hardware was doing more damage.

Total Approximate Cost (Hospital Stay, Doctor and Surgery): $80,000.00

Total Approximate Cost: $1,114,606.00

My own loss of wages and time will never be compensated for. I was fortunate that I had over 4 months of sick time that I was allowed to use it (under the Family Medical Leave Act) in order to be there for my daughter, but if I had not had that time, my wage loss would have been such that my daughter would have had to be without someone near her so that I could maintain my own household.

Other expenses I endured was living in another location for a full month, including the gas to bring my car there , food and living expenses, plus maintaining a household for my husband and our son. This was well over $2, 000.00 for the first month. Then the traveling to her location, back and forth over a 4 month period which at minimum has cost me over $5,000.00, which does not include the stress on my family and me and my own medical costs associated to the accident.

My daughter was very fortunate to have the level of insurance that she did going into this accident, however, I began to wonder, if she did not have the insurance coverage that she did, would she have received as good of care. On the other hand, I began to wonder, because she did have such good insurance, how much of what was done was superfluous?

Now for the big shocker, as I am sure, you the reader are aware, if my daughter had any chance of receiving a settlement, that money WOULD NOT towards the care of my daughter. Instead, the insurance companies had first rights to any settlement money. I was astounded to learn this and to this day I am still unsure of the reasoning. I, like many others, was under the impression, the reason we pay for insurance is for the off chance of such a tragic, catastrophic accident like this was to occur, that I as a paying customer would be entitled to be covered and that any monies from a settlement, would help to go for my living expenses.

My daughter, at the age of 25, will find it very difficult to find a job that can accommodate her (regardless of the American with Disabilities Act, prejudice still happens), and she will have an even harder time pursuing her career choice, of being a raptor biologist, which she was studying for when her accident happened.

Soon after my daughter was in the accident, my senator was on a board, talking about changing the benefits for Medicare and Medicaid, for which my daughter, was not eligible until April 2013 (Most individuals do not know you have to wait 2 years after becoming permanently disabled in order to be eligible for Medicare) . However, the response I got from my senator, much to my dismay, was a typical form letter. A form letter to a parent, whose only hope is to see her children succeed in this world and which one little accident has cost so much financial trouble, not only to my daughter, but to myself.

It is time for our country to get on board with the rest of the world. We are the richest country and yet we treat our citizens like they do not have any rights. It is an awful shame that we have come to this and that I, as a working citizen, get a form letter from my employee (the senator yes, is MY employee), that too bad, it is a burden on our country.

I have done everything right and everything in my power to make my daughter less of a burden on our society, but why should she be considered a burden? Someone seeking an entitlement which is not an entitlement but something we as citizens pay in taxes for the safety net, when it was not her doing that she is now a disabled person?

We need universal health care. We need to respect our children and our elders and care for them without worrying about how we are going to pay for it, if we can pay for it. We need to take care of our own health and stay healthy instead of waiting until something bad happens before we see a doctor. We need to not worry, such as my daughter is, that one bad thing happens in our life that we will face financial trouble and have to file bankruptcy, or lose our home because the medical bills are so astronomical. Imagine if my child did not have health insurance she would be over $1,000,000.00 in debt at the age of 25! If we had universal healthcare, this would not even be an issue. A mother should not have to worry about what insurance she has, or if she has any, while her child is fighting for their life!

For all people…this is a fundamental right. It is my right, my daughter’s right, my family’s right, everyone’s right to have full access to healthcare.