Monday, February 24, 2020


We have low unemployment and a rising stock market, so I can't imagine why so many people are so grumpy...
A Miami man who flew to China worried he might have coronavirus. He may owe thousands

After returning to Miami last month from a work trip in China, Osmel Martinez Azcue found himself in a frightening position: he was developing flu-like symptoms, just as coronavirus was ravaging the country he had visited.

... Azcue felt it was his responsibility to his family and his community to get tested for novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

He went to Jackson Memorial Hospital.... Azcue said he asked for a flu test first.

“This will be out of my pocket,” Azcue, who has a very limited insurance plan, recalled saying. “Let’s start with the blood test, and if I test positive, just discharge me.”

Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened....

But two weeks later, Azcue got unwelcome news in the form of a notice from his insurance company about a claim for $3,270....
A better name for Azcue's "very limited insurance plan" is "junk plan." The plan might pay about 43% of the bill -- but there's a catch:
In 2018, President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back Affordable Care Act regulations and allowed so-called “junk plans” in the market. Consumers mistakenly assume that the plans with lower monthly costs will be better than no insurance at all in case of a medical catastrophe, but often the plans aren’t very different from going without insurance altogether.

Hospital officials at Jackson told the Miami Herald that, based on his insurance, Azcue would only be responsible for $1,400 of that bill, but Azcue said he heard from his insurer that he would also have to provide additional documentation: three years of medical records to prove that the flu he got didn’t relate to a pre-existing condition.
He has to provide proof that the flu isn't related to a preexisting condition? Seriously?

And why does Azcue have this plan?
Azcue said he earns about $55,000 a year working for a medical device company that does not offer health insurance....
He doesn't get medical insurance from his employer, a medical device company. You can't make this stuff up.

Oh, and:
Jackson Health officials say that there are more bills for Azcue on the way, but it’s unclear what those will total, as they are going to be issued by the University of Miami Health System, or UHealth, for treatment provided by their staff physicians who work at Jackson.
Of course. I have good insurance, but I can't remember the last time I got one bill for a doctor visit. If I get one bill, I always get another, and maybe another one after that. They're not huge. I can afford them. But I'm glad I'm healthy, and I still expect not to be as lucky as I was a number of years ago when a medical assistant in my gastroenterologist's office made a $4000 anesthesiologist's charge go away after a colonoscopy. (The doctor was in network. So was the hospital. Who knew the anesthesiologist wasn't?)

I'm reading this story at the same time I'm reading that this coronavirus has begun to show up in disturbingly large numbers in countries far from China -- Italy and Iran, to name two. If the U.S. has a serious outbreak, could we contain it?

I think we'd be hamstrung by the fact that millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured, and by the fact that many of us don't dare to take time off to seek medical care because we don't have paid days off (in one stratum of the workforce), while even among comfortable middle-class workers with paid time off and good insurance, there's so much pressure to perform that showing up for work sick is the rule rather than the exception.

Let's hope we dodge this bullet. Meanwhile, I'm thinking about that video in which British people react to America's huge out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

I'd like to see a follow-up in which the interviewer just reads Brits this news story.

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