Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Health Care in America -- Contest Winner!

Contest Winner Announced Below (read on)

I don't want this to sound like a political tirade or anything, but I just need to put in a "plug" for our current health care system. Yes, it, like every other system in the world, has problems, but in my humble opinion, there are many more "rights" than "wrongs". Let me illustrate with my health care story:

In a matter of only 1 month, I went from being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, growing on my brainstem, to being in the hospital receiving a life-saving series of surgical procedures from some of the world's best neurosurgeons. I did not have to wait months or years to see these doctors and when they saw me, they "Saw ME" not just another patient. The men and women who saved my life and took care of me every day were part of a system of people who choose to help others because they care. They sacrificed years of their lives to receive the training necessary to help me and help my family understand what I was going through. They have earned the right to charge more than an average blue or white collar worker.

These specialists performed experimental procedures on me, when nothing else worked. They were willing to take the chances, as was I, and the chances paid off. Today, after 5 weeks in the hospital, I am recovering at home, 11 weeks after being released. I have a new lease on life, I am whole and becoming well one day at a time.

And what did all this cost me?? Not the millions of dollars that some of you may have expected but only....

That is it! Less than $200,000 and only 2 months of treatment to save my life! Was it worth it? Well, it is to me and my family for sure!

And the Winner is: BELINDA JACKSON
of Riverdale, UT, with a guess of $173,000.
(The closest guess without going over the correct amount.Hooray and congrats to Belinda! I will be bringing by the prizes soon!! Thanks to all for playing!)

Breakdown of Costs for Jodi's Brain Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment

Here are the approximate costs for the diagnosis and treatment, using 2 major health care systems and multiple doctors, specialists, appointments, hospital stays, etc.

* ~$350 per appointment for diagnosis and consultation with neurosurgeons, ENTs, Neuro ENTs (times 7)

* ~$2-$3,000 per MRI performed outside of a hospital stay (times 3)

* ~$1,500 for the full body CT scan (diagnostic)

* ~$7,500 for the initial hospitalization (including MRIs, diagnostic tests and 3 days in the hospital)

* ~$2,200 for a blood patch surgery to correct the first spinal fluid leak (after a spinal tap from the diagnostic process)

* ~$60,000+ for the first craniotomy (neurosurgeons, neuro ENT, nurses, OR time, anesthesia, etc)

* ~$2-$3,500 per day for each day in the Neuro Critical Care Unit (times 6 days, including all medications and treatments performed while in the CCU)

* ~$1-2,200 per day for each day in the Neuro Acute Care Unit (times 28 days, including all medications and treatments performed while in the NAC)

* ~$22,000 for the second craniotomoy (neurosurgeon, nurses, OR time, anesthesia, etc)

* ~$800 per lumbar drain (times 2)

* ~$14,500 for the surgery to seal the Eustation tubes and correct the deviated septum (neuro ENT, nurses, OR time, anesthesia, etc)

* ~$300 per physical therapy or occupational therapy session (times 6)

* ~$11,000 for the eye surgery (after release from the hospital)

* ~$350 per follow-up appointment with the neurosuregons and eye doctor (1st follow-up only, times 3)

Why Are Costs so Low??

Feel free to stop reading now if you don't want to hear my opinion on the subject :) but I have a theory here. Most people guessed the costs would be much higher, and even my initial guesses were off by more than $100,000 (even after seeing a few of the bills). So, why are the costs so low for so many treatments??

1. The University of Utah Medical Center (where some of my diagnostic services and all of my treatment services were provided) is a teaching hospital. Most of the time, I saw residents each day, not doctors. This keeps the costs down, as doctors were called in only when residents found a need, or directly following a surgery or during a CCU stay. So, I had a dozen "resident doctors" seeing me every single day, together using their combined knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat me. The doctors were then consulted and approved or changed treatments as needed. It was one of these residents who had the idea to check for "air on the brain" when I was at my very sickest, which ended up saving my life! No resident experience is perfect, but lots of heads together helps solve the problems and keeps costs down.

These teaching facilities also have thousands - millions of dollars in grants each year, allowing them to discover and try experimental procedures (like sealing my Eustation tube going in through my nose), train residents and specialize in very specific health care areas. (ie. Dr. Couldwell specializing in "parts of the brain previously thought to be inoperable". This explains why he was willing to operate when the 9-person team at IHC was not able to do so.) So, that is one huge benefit provided by the U and other 1st class teaching hospitals.

2. In the state of Utah, Intermountain Health Care is the primary health provider. They are a nonprofit system and have some of the lowest overall costs and best outcomes in the nation. For other systems in the state to be competitive, they must keep their costs similar to those of IHC, thus decreasing the overall cost of health care in the state. (Studies have shown this to be true and at least 3 times, IHC has been ranked in the top 3 for Integrated Health Care Systems in the nation.) It was through this system that I received my initial diagnosis, MRIs, and suregon appointments before being referred to the specialists at the U.

So, all in all, I think we have a great system (especially in the Intermountain West) and I would hate to change it too much. If a government health care system were in place, I could very well still be sick, dizzy, in constant pain, bed-ridden and waiting for appointments to see the neurosurgeons, instead of recovering happily at home!

I hope we can all appreciate the benefits of living in this great country! I got to choose my doctors, choose the health care system in which I received treatment and receive world-class treatment for an "inoperable" brain tumor! I wouldn't change that for anything! Have a great weekend and much love to all!

ADDENDUM: Several people have already mentioned that my "story" should be told to others as a demonstration of how good our health care system really is. So, feel free to send along the blog link, or cut and paste info from the blog into an email. Send it to friends, family, legislators, local representatives, President Obama, whomever you want. Just please keep the info accurate and include the link so they know the story is true. Check out Jason's comment from this post for another compelling reason why our health care system should not be changed!


Anonymous said...

Jodi, that is amazing. I appreciate your perspective on our health care. More people need the opportunity to read this -- you should write a letter to the editor or something! Thanks for sharing your incredible story with all of us who read your blog!
MaryAnn Christiansen

Anonymous said...

I congradualate you on your ongoing recovery and second the idea that you need to get your story and opinion out to those politicians who can make a difference.
Once again we need to be reminded that health insurers are not the enemy. In fact Medical insurance does not insure our health, it is insuring our long term finances.
We can and would do more to take care of our own health if we did not live with the delusion that our "health insurance" is "free" and a right we have.
Insurance is for this very type of situation, Thank the Lord!

Jason said...

Oh my gosh Jodi- I am one of those that figured it would be higher. That really is incredible, and it is surely a testament to the quality care that we receive.

With my case, after one month at the hospital that my accident happened my bill was $500,000. Just over four years later I have already maxed my lifetime coverage of $2 million and am now reliant on Medicare- at least until I can afford paying cash for everything, we'll see how that one goes :)

My point is, as a patient with chronic health issues, who will probably end up not being able to afford living, I wouldn't change a thing. The day that I can't choose my team of Doctors (like you, I currently have the best Doctors in the world) will be the day that I die. Seriously. The system certainly has its share of flaws, and the costs are ridiculous, but the care that we receive is the best there is. Obama's proposed plan will literally kill me. How's that for affect.

Take good care of yourself my friend :)

bishop howell said...

I completley agree! and am happy to know that our healthcare system saved your life! I hope that you have a wonderful continuing recovery!
Love Jodi and Jared Howell

Belinda said...

Thanks for the win!!!
And more so ... THank you soo much for your example and courage. I agree that we have a great health system - I would not wish to be ill in England!!! I certainly hope it does not become like that here!!!
I am very glad that you are here! We are all grateful for the doctors whom have saved your life!
Love you Jodi!! x

Anonymous said...

Congradulations Belinda! Jodi how grateful I am for the miracle care you were blessed with.

Els Manning said...

ha so i was slightly off... As far as the health care system goes...i was talking with keith about that and we agreed that social med. is not nearly as good. And as an added bonus in Holland our treasure chest is empty. So the country is broke. The queen is on a budget, and so the idea is great. But the money has to come from some where... and when it's gone then what? Big drawback...
It was also great to actually see you in person... i dont think we ever talked before. So that was a biggy today for me.
And as far as the prize goes... i totally agree that Belinda deserved it...even if she hadnt won it! I so admire you ladies. Respectfully yours... els

GroupieMom said...

Jodi - I went over by $150,000. Wow, I could have sworn it would have been more. You are amazing to me you know!!! You have taught so many lessons in your experience and I am in awe of you. Of course, you know that. I loved your analysis of why health care is better at Intermountain and the U and even through all your challenges, I still marvel at your brain!! You are so smart. I didn't even think about the residents, etc. President Obama did recognize Intermountain Health Care publicly because of the same efforts you cite, but I too am worried about what is in store for us. I hope and pray all will work out. Perhaps you need to serve on their committee!!! Jodi - I love seeing you and your family and knowing that things are going so well. Love, Noellee

Anonymous said...

You don't know me, but I have been reading your blog since your diagnosis. You are an inspiring woman who is beautiful inside and out. I wish you a full and complete recovery and many more years of love and joy with your family.

I am disappointed to read, however, your take on our healthcare system. Can you imagine if a poor person without insurance received your same diagnosis? They would certainly have been doomed as they would not have had access to the fine surgeons that took on your case. We cannot continue to accept this kind of inherently unfair system. Rich or poor, black or white...all Americans deserve the same access to healthcare that you are privileged to have had. Just because the system works for you doesn't mean it's a good system. Think of all the people who are excluded from this kind of care? I hope you will think about the bigger picture and realize that your survival is due in part to your socio-economic status. There are a great many people who would have had to accept the "your tumor is inoperable" diagnosis, which likely would have led to their eventual and untimely death.

I thank you for your beautiful and uplifting posts. They have inspired me to make the most of my time here on earth and not take a single day for granted.