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!
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!