Very long but reading at least some of it is worthwhile and scan the rest.
Good article, ao. Thanks for posting it. It got me thinking about how to deal with such things. It's changing. But some things remain the same. One constant thing is checking bills.
My mother was ill the whole time I was growing up, in the hospital at least once a year. (Wrong kind of blood in a tranfusion, anaphylactic shock, only witness on blood mis-typing died and the lawsuit failed... her endocrine system was shot to hell). One thing I learned as a child was that YOU ALWAYS GO OVER THE #$%^ HOSPITAL BILL WITH A FINE TOOTHED COMB. The inappropriate, overpriced, insane costs they hit you up for are buried in the broken-out bill. Use a microscope. Question everything. I swear, we once found a $15 box of Kleenex. We never used that hospital again.
And that brings up another thing I learned. This was something I learned as a poor single mother: once discharged, go ask the public hospital billing office for a discount right off the bat. Hospital costs are negitoable. If you run up a bill for $10,000 and cannot pay it, negotiate it down to anywhere from 7K to 3K and make a payment plan. Techically, as long as you pay them something every month, even if it's $5 (although $20 to $25 is far more acceptable), legally they can do nothing. Make it an auto-pay so you don't forget and they cannot touch you.
FYI, such bills, once writ in stone with a payment agreement, must be paid and will not go away. Collection agencies routinely sell and resell debt when it is about to expire, and it is then considered "new" every time; they literally will never stop calling. I was good about paying, my new husband's ex was not (after the divorce) so believe me, I know. I still get calls for her debt.
Final comment: my husband's insurance coverage with a Fortune 300 company changed radically over the past two years. We went from small co-pays and a small deductible with an optional, pretax Health Savings Account (HSA) to a $3,000 deductible.
It could be worse. $1500 of our $3K comes from an HSA and $1500 of it comes from an FSA we get for getting yearly checkups, bloodwork, and health counseling. We are encouraged to shop around. The couple in the start of your article paid for not shopping around. The JHA rating of any hospital is public record. You shop for quality, and then narrow it down by price. That's what I did with my congenital malformation hip replacement three years ago.
But, anyhow, the scariest change is that we went to 80/20 - the insurance pays 80% and we pay 20% of catastrophic costs. If you get really ill that can bankrupt you pretty quickly. And the way they are "compensating" for that depends on us shopping around, too: the HSA used to dissapear if not all used up but now it rolls over and we are supposed to use that to save up for larger bills.
If my experience is any guide, fitness and health maintenence will get more and more important, folks.
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