1/28/2013 9:15 PM ET|
My disease is bankrupting my family
A debilitating lifelong illness has changed the shape of one family's financial future. Sadly, they're not alone.
Four years ago -- seven days after my 30th birthday and three months before my only daughter turned 2 -- I got a cold.
Along with the cold, the left side of my face went numb. When I still couldn't feel my cheek a few weeks later, my doctor sent me to the emergency room. I laughed at the time, thinking of those news stories about people who take up seats in the E.R. because their doctors don't want to see them.
But once I was given a CAT scan that showed suspicious but inconclusive results, and admitted to the hospital overnight, things were less funny. Only an hour after getting an MRI, my neurologist came in and told me that, without a doubt, I had multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing such symptoms as loss of balance and hearing loss.
When the doctor left the room, my husband turned to me and said, "Don't let this moment define the rest of your life." So far, I haven't. But my diagnosis has completely reshaped my financial life.
I got a $2,500 bill for that hospital visit -- and that was just the beginning.
Why my illness is so expensive
Once I researched the medication that my doctor wanted me to take, I realized that it would cost $2,800 a month. Every MS drug is around this price, and there are no generics available now or in the foreseeable future.
At the time, my health insurance through work covered most of the cost. I was responsible for $500 of it, while living in a small apartment and trying to save for a down payment on a house.
To make ends meet, my husband and I changed our budget and our plans immediately. Instead of the two-story house we'd been eyeing, we purchased a one-story home near my in-laws that could be altered in the future to accommodate my eventual need for a walker or a wheelchair. It would also make it easier for my husband's parents to help care for my now 6-year-old daughter.
The thing you need to understand about MS is that there is no cure. There's no getting better; there is only slowing down the progression of the disease. Statistically, my life expectancy is about average, but the last years of my life will look different from other people's as my disease progresses. I'm lucky that I now have full mobility, with only the occasional muscle twinge, and I keep it that way with a daily self-injection.
As the years go by, the price of medication goes up. Since I was diagnosed, the prescription for the injection has risen from $2,800 to $3,600 a month. If I didn't have health insurance, which covers all but $250 a month, it would cost me $43,000 a year.
These numbers sound insane, but what would you pay to be able to see? Or walk? Or swallow? It's all relative. I look at my syringe every day, hoping that the $120 dose is working.
How our financial health has changed -- for the worse
Until that fateful MRI, my husband and I were in great financial shape. We maxed out our IRAs, we were saving for a house, we amassed a sizable emergency fund, and we had no debt.
But if I lose my vision, as 81% of MS patients do, and can't work, it would mean that I'd no longer be covered by health insurance after 18 months of COBRA. As a result, we're now prepared to file for bankruptcy. If I don't have insurance, and I lose my income, our family would be functioning on my husband's salary alone to cover a $2,200 a month mortgage, along with $3,600 per month in medication.
We'd be bankrupt within a few months of running up credit card bills to pay for the drugs, so it would be better for me to file individually, get down to no income and qualify for disability insurance and patient assistance programs from the drug manufacturers.
My situation isn't exactly unique; depending on the studies you reference, anywhere between 17% and 62% of bankruptcy declarations are largely caused by overwhelming medical bills.
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Health care of any type is bankrupting everyone who is unlucky enough to need it and there is quite a list of people to blame: lawyers, pharmacy co's, claims cheaters who bilk the health system, hopsitals, nursing homes, politicians who make decisions based on campaign contributions rather than common sense, the smoker of two packs a day, the drunkard, the drug addict, the person eating 2 cheese burgers before they get home for dinner, it goes on and on. 99% of the high cost/bankrupting issues related to long term or cronic healthcare are a direct result of someone's conscious, poor decision.
Clear up the above personal choice issues the unfortunate folks who, by no decision or action of their own, honestly do need treatment, get it without the catastrophic financial aspect making them wish they would have just died.
I'M VERY SORRY FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY----I'VE LIVED IT ALSO. MY WIFE HAD CANCER. AFTER INSURANCE PAID-MY MONTHLY EXPENSE WAS STILL $1800-2000/MONTH. THIS LASTED 4 YEARS. SHE PASSED AWAY 2 YEARS AGO--I STILL OWE 19K. WHAT OBAMA AND THE REST DONT UNDERSTAND IS, MOST PEOPLE CAN COPE WITH "NORMAL" EVERYDAY HEALTHCARE.
IT IS WHEN THE DISEASE OR ILLNESS IS CATASTROPHIC THAT WE NEED NATIONAL HEALTHCARE. NO MIDDLE CLASS WORKER MAKING $30K TO 100K PER YEAR CAN WITHSTAND THE FINANCIAL ONSLAUGHT OF A CATASTROPHIC ILLNESS. HAD I NOT HAD A GOOD JOB I COULDNT HAVE CONTINUED THE COST OF HER MEDICAL CARE. NOW I HAVE NO RETIREMENT-MY HOME IS MORTGAGED TO THE HILLS. AS I'M IN MY LATE 50'S I WILL NEVER FINANCIALLY RECOUP.
HANG IN THERE.
Try cancer ... my wife felt fine and all of a sudden it's stage 4 cancer and she passed within 5 months of finding out. Now the cost...2 each.. 500ml of chemo $11k , rad. treatments 10 in all $2800 each... a blood transfusion $1800 (and I give blood free 0neg) so why when you say the C word does everything seem to double in price. Total cost with no insurance $106,000.00
We had just quit our jobs and moved to our retirement home and started looking for new insurance.
So my point is health care is very broken the prices are very high I foresee only the Rich will be able to afford to get sick.
I agree that health care costs are out of control.
I was in the hospital for 2 nights in ICU because of congestive heart failure. I was laid off about 2 years ago and lost my health insurance.
Luckily my issue wasn't serious but I received a bill for about $35,000.
For ICU it was just shy of $8,000 a night.
I'm diabetic so they gave me insulin injections 3 times a day and charged $200 per injection. For $200 I could buy enough insulin to last me at least 4 months.
An aspirin was $8.00. My other medications they charged more for 1 pill than I pay for a 90 day supply. The ER doctor billed me $1500; I saw him for 15 minutes. I could go on but I think I made my point.
I have found that the morons like the first commenter who bash Obama's health care plan are usually republicans with a nice health care plan who have never had to worry about paying a whopping hospital bill. Even when I was was working and was offered insurance, the cost to the company per 1 employee was $650 a month, and it wasn't a very good plan.
If you wanted your spouse and children covered multiply by $650 a person.
I don't expect a free ride and I'm willing to pay a reasonable amount but this is a license to steel!
If I had insurance the hospital would have been paid about $4,000. or less.
We are the only industrialized nation in the world where you can lose everything you own because of an illness or accident.
We need to somehow cap what providers can charge and make heath insurance affordable and available to everyone.
This story shoud be read by president.
This problem is more important then immigration.
President have to think how american can survive first,
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